Leveraging the European refugee crisis: forced displacement and bargaining in Greece’s bailout negotiations

Gerasimos Tsourapas, Sotirios Zartaloudis

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How does forced migration feature in EU member states’ foreign policy and how does it affect their bargaining strategies? While the literature highlights EU-level policies aiming to manage forced migration flows, we examine how Greece sought to leverage its response to the 2015–16 European migrant crisis. We propose a theoretical framework that explains why the SYRIZA–ANEL government sought to leverage Greece’s position as a refugee-host state via an issue-linkage strategy tying the management of forced migration to economic aid over the Third Economic Adjustment Programme. Initially employing a ‘blackmailing’ strategy focused on threats, Greece shifted to a ‘backscratching’ strategy of co-operation after March 2016, once its geopolitical importance and numbers of asylum seekers within its territory were reduced. We provide the first detailed analysis of Greece’s foreign policy response to the European migrant crisis, demonstrating the importance of forced displacement in the international politics of EU member states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Early online date8 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2021


  • European migration crisis
  • Greek refugee policy
  • Original Article
  • Original Articles
  • forced migration
  • issue linkage
  • migration


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