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This article argues that cooperation to tackle the consequences of large asylum migration inflows is possible only among fairly symmetrical countries. Highly asymmetric countries have no incentives to join and remain in a stable coalition. The distinction between cost and spillover asymmetries shows that financial transfers may release constraints on participation, and thus make asylum cooperation feasible, only if they are focused on tackling this asymmetry. This result becomes relevant when applied to the context of the enlarged European Union. I argue that there is the potential for a future cooperative burden-sharing regime for asylum, particularly if unanimity is replaced by the double majority principle in European Council votes, as suggested in the EU reform treaty.

More information


Journal article


European Union Politics

Publication Date



10 (1)


89 - 113

Total pages



asylum policy, burden-sharing, transfer payments