Scenarios for migration, Europe and its external borders

The refugee crisis keeps Europe on tenterhooks. Fostering the free movement of people has been an important objective of European integration since the 1950s. Free movement of goods, persons, services and capital were identified as foundations of the Community in the Treaty of Rome. For years it was clear the with the reduction of controls at the internal borders and effective protection of the European external borders is necessary. This is even more necessary because 2015 more than 1.8 million illegal border-crossings have been counted. Many eyes are now turned on Frontex, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation.


Frontex promotes, coordinates and develops European border management in line with the EU fundamental rights charter applying the concept of Integrated Border Management. Risk analysis is the starting point for all Frontex activities, from joint operations through training to research studies. In order to identify short- medium- and long-term trends, a wealth of data needs to be gathered and analysed. For this, Frontex monitors the global security environment, especially those political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors which could affect border security. Main results are summarized in the annual Risk-Analysis-Report.


In addition to a situational analysis and specific topic-reports, the new „Risk Analysis 2016“ includes for the first time a long-term foresight-study, which has been worked out with the help of ScMI. Therefore a scenario process has been set up, involving experts from Frontex, Member States (Finland, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands), and the European Commission and from other EU agencies like Europol, EAS, the Fundamental Rights Agency, the European External Action Service (EEAS), as well as from the OECD and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Within the process seven scenarios have been worked out:


Scenarios frontex


Attrition of European Union (Scenario 1)
Extensive migration and failed integration leads to conflicts and nationalism. Global threats do not reach a tipping point, so countries and existing alliances prefer to work on their individual challenges. While most countries focus on their economic interest, a common European identity loses relevance. Policies are mainly oriented on political correctness and short-term public opinion. Former agreements, like Schengen and Dublin, failed and became drastically less important or completely void. The high numbers of economically motivated migrants – mostly with low educational qualification and with a different cultural background – are not truly integrated into European societies. This causes social conflicts and critical perception of migration – but without important security issues. Border management is Member States’ affair, there are very few common activities, and EU institutions are only barely involved.
A Passive European Union (Scenario 2)
Fear and passivity leads to mistrust, security focus and walling-off. The politically and economically fragmented world faces an increasing number of conflicts. The EU stopped enlargement and turned into a loose and economically oriented alliance of Member States with a low level of political and societal integration. Member States act completely different on migration and asylum policies. This leads to more internal border controls even within the Schengen area. Migration pressure on EU borders is highly related to the volatile global conflicts: Numbers of refugees, countries of origin, routes and affected border sections change permanently. Despite differing migration policies, the control of EU external borders is a common interest with high priority on security. In reality foreign policies remain passive and there are only few concerted actions in border management.
Managed Diversity (Scenario 3)
Controlled migration into diverse and safeguarded societies. Due to international cooperation, numerous regional conflicts can be solved. The European Union withdraws from further political integration but remains open to new Member States. Most societies have a positive perception of migration and welcome new citizens even with different cultural backgrounds. Migration pressure stays manageable, but organized crime groups and terroristic activities stay a threat for EU borders. The Dublin process is implemented to spread migration flow and free movement within the enlarged Schengen area is preserved. Proactive foreign policies keep stability and migration manageable on a long-term view. Actions regarding border control are the responsibility of rather independent Member States, but communication and collaboration is on a very high level.
Restrictive policies (Scenario 4)
Restrictive and uncoordinated migration policies but common long-term security strategy. Growing global conflicts and economic disparities between EU and other countries are substantial push factors for migration. The EU has turned away from the idea of a stronger integrated federation. Traditional values dominate, and in many Member States there are critical views on foreigners for different reasons, which leads to restrictive immigration and asylum policies. Even the integration of few migrants is difficult. Nevertheless the variety of global conflicts and terrorist threats strengthened the wish for a common security policy. Foreign policies focus on containment, and the Dublin process is strictly implemented to control migrants directly at the external borders. Member States act individually, the EU mandate for border management is often symbolic. Member States cooperate mostly bilaterally, which in many cases results in efficient actions.
Multi-speed Europe (Scenario 5)
Limited migration and successful integration in an adaptable EU. The world has speeded up, with further globalization, intensification of international conflicts and terrorist activities. Within the EU, there are different views on the integration process. This has led to a ‘multi-speed Europe’ where some Member States create more integrated systems, and others stick more to their national values and interests. Europe has withdrawn from a value-driven foreign policy, and opted for a ‘Realpolitik’ line, including restrictive migration policies. This comprises legal migration for a small number of highly educated migrants who can easily be integrated. The Schengen area includes border controls, but some aspects of free movement remain. In border management, Member States cooperate, and major tasks are done by a European border and coast guard corps.
More Europe (Scenario 6)
Integrated EU profits form migration and copes with global challenges. The world has to face significant political and environmental challenges, and for this reason, countries all over the world close ranks and cooperate. EU Member States understand that they have to act consistently in times of external challenges. The integration within a number of member states intensifies. Society lives the ‘European idea’ and understands itself as open union. Migrants from different cultures are seen as enrichment and integrate eagerly. Legal migration and asylum processes are set up consistently within all Member States. Nevertheless the pressure on external borders remains high, so that security is still a main topic. Europe tries to react considerately by a long-term proactive foreign policy and a common border management addressed to the uniform European border and coast guard corps.
Open Doors (Scenario 7)
External borders lose relevance in a peaceful world. The world is able to breathe again as conflicts can be solved and environmental degradation can be slowed down. In this peaceful world, Member States close ranks and crime or terrorist activities play no significant role. They understand Europe as political, economic and social union with one common mindset. Foreign policy is proactive as Europe believes in its values and wants to manifest human rights all over the world. Due to this social conviction, Europe opens its arms and welcomes large numbers of migrants, especially by a permissive legal immigration policy. Migration is not seen as a security problem, and Member States closely coordinate their actions. In case of crisis, EU intervenes self-contained; but overall: Common border management is not a significant topic.


The seven scenarios are initially "thinking tools", without any assigned probabilities. To support strategy- and planning processes, these scenarios have been evaluated. In particular scenario 2 (“Passive EU”) was seen as the future image closest to the current status. In addition also the scenario 4 (“Restrictive policies”) included a lot of topical elements.

The comparison showed that three scenarios are valued as the most expected ones: Scenario 2, scenario 4 and scenario 5 (“Multi-speed Europe”) - in general a continuous development with restrictive policies and limitations of migration. This in combined with a stronger changing global environment which forces the need for a proactive European foreign policy and a common European border management.