How and with what effects have three South-East European countries (Greece, Slovenia and Croatia) responded to the EU’s migration and border security acquis? The paper shows that European integration can strengthen central state actors, but can also change the constellation of actors and resources in trans-boundary policy sectors such as international migration and border security. To demonstrate these effects the paper specifies functional, political and administrative dimensions of the EU’s migration and border security ‘capacity bargain’. It also specifies the limits of an EU approach to migration and border security – and associated capacity-building – that has a strong regulatory focus on the EU’s external frontiers with less attention paid to more complex regulatory and distributive dynamics that arise once migrants are ‘in’.
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