2017. Global Governance Programme. EUI RSCAS.
In recent history, the countries along the Western Balkan route faced several refugee crises. In the 1990s refugee crises were the result of the conflicts after the disintegration of the former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Between the summer of 2015 and early 2016, the European continent faced another refugee crisis due to the ongoing civil war in Syria. During the 2015/16 refugee crisis, different political leaders, especially in the post-Yugoslav space, claimed that their humanitarian approach towards refugees was based on their previous experience with refugee crises from the 1990s. This paper explores and compares legal and political responses to different refugee crises in the in-between countries along the Western Balkan route: three European Union (EU) Member States (Austria, Slovenia and Croatia) and two EU candidate countries (Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia). In the first part, the paper looks at the impact of the refugee crisis on EU law. It shows how EU law was developed due to the post-Yugoslav refugee crisis (Temporary Protection Directive), but then faced ambivalent application during the 2015/16 refugee crisis. Second, it studies the transformation of national legislation during both refugee crises in the chosen countries. On the basis of the socio-legal analysis of these transformations, the main argument is that there has been a major shift in the ‘management’ of the refugee crises in the countries along the Western Balkan route: while the main approach adopted during the post-Yugoslav refugee crisis was temporary protection, this approach was replaced with a ‘transit migration’ approach during the 2015/16 refugee crisis.