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PhD Fellowships in Law 2021 at the Maastricht University, Netherland

Publish Date: Feb 15, 2021

Deadline: Mar 10, 2021

EU’s Shifting Borders


EU’s external borders are constantly shifting through externalization, i.e. the transfer towards non-EU countries of migration management and international protection responsibilities. EU’s commitment to refugee protection has therefore developed in tandem with attempts to ensure that few asylum seekers would be able to reach the territory of EU Member States to claim asylum. EU’s ambivalent approach to providing protection jeopardises the fundamental rights of those seeking it and puts into question EU’s commitment to global responsibility sharing and solidarity.  At the same time, externalization also results in challenges for EU’s institutional framework and principles, especially competences and institutional balance.

More broadly, the EU continues to institutionalize externalization in its relations with third States, for example, through the introduction of negative conditionality between mobility/legal migration opportunities and control-oriented commitments, and through funding (e.g. EU Trust Fund for Africa). Migration management and protection obligations are often shifted to non-EU countries through soft law instruments in or outside the EU legal framework. This allows to eschew political accountability from the European Parliament, transparency and judicial oversight from the CJEU. Emblematic of this approach is the 2016 ‘EU-Turkey Statement’ in which the EU, the Member States and Turkey explicitly mentions commitments of the EU and its Member States towards Turkey as part of an externalisation cooperation ‘bargain’. With its hybrid legal content and diffused authorship, the instrument evades the EU procedural and institutional framework.

Against this backdrop, we invite doctoral project proposals that relate to the ‘mobility of persons’ cluster of LIMES and scrutinize the shifting of EU’s borders through externalisation and its implications. Envisaged areas of scrutiny include:

  1. the impact of key constitutional principles such as fundamental rights, the rule of law, and solidarity and fair sharing responsibility on EU’s externalisation project;
  2. the role of institutional actors such as the CJEU, the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament in shaping, operationalising and controlling EU’s externalisation project;
  3. how far the institutional framework of the EU and its structural principles (especially institutional balance, competences divide) guide the role between EU and Member States and frame the EU’s action in this field
  4. the legal implications of informalisation under EU and international law, i.e. the use of non-binding agreements and instruments to operationalise externalisation obligations
  5.  the use of funding to pursue EU’s migration management objectives concentrating on issues such as its steering and solidarity potential, permissible aims, and management.

The researcher will be based at the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, The Netherlands, and undertake a 6 month secondment at the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels, Belgium.

Candidates will be assessed based on the requirements outlined below. Candidates should make sure that their application letter demonstrates how they meet these requirements:

  • Master degree in European law, Migration Law; Human Rights Law;
  • Strong analytical skills;
  • Outstanding writing skills;
  • An obvious interest in academic research;
  • Capability of autonomously conducting original research as well as working in a team;
  • Fluency in English;
  • Willingness to relocate to Brussels for an external placement at the European Policy Centre (EPC) for six months.

Supervision team:
Supervisor: Prof. Mariolina Eliantonio, Professor of European and Comparative Administrative Law and Procedure & Coordinator of the Globalisation and Law Network research
Co-supervisor: Prof. Andrea Ott, Professor of EU External Relations Law & Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law
Co-supervisor: Assistant Prof. Lilian Tsourdi, specialised in EU Migration Law & current NWO VENI grantee
External supervisor: Dr. Marie De Somer, Head of European Migration and Diversity programme and Senior Policy Analyst

Any inquiries about the position or the project may be addressed to the supervisor.


You are invited to apply for a PhD position on Scrutinizing Externalization of Migration Management and International Protection Responsibilities. This PhD project will be carried out within the framework of the project “LIMES – the hardening and softening of borders”. The duration of the research project will be four academic years. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 847596, and brings together different faculties of Maastricht University. The PhD project is co-financed by the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University.

The PhD candidate will receive extensive training, including regular supervision, and training offered by both the LIMES consortium and the Graduate School of the Faculty of Law.

For more information click "LINK TO ORIGINAL" below.

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