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UTENRIKS-Internasjonale forhold - utenriks- og sikkerhetspolitikk og norske interesser

Understanding the Political Dynamics of Émigré Communities in an Era of European Democratic Backsliding

Alternative title: Migrantmiljøer og europeiske demokratier under press: Politiske prosesser og dynamikker

Awarded: NOK 3.9 mill.

After the European Union's (EU) Eastern Enlargement in 2004-2007, several million of intra-European migrants moved from Central and Eastern to Western and Northern Europe. Many observers believed that these migrants would 'socialize' to the values and standards of consolidated liberal democracies, and 'remit' democracy home. The rise of populism and democratic backsliding across Europe, especially CEE, question this notion. The DIASPOlitic project asked if, how, and to what extent EU-diasporas contribute to democratic backsliding and the political fragmentation of Europe and whether 'political remittances' occur either in democratic or illiberal form. We gathered two types of data. Firstly, we built the first-ever comparative dataset of external voting results, covering all CEE countries in an initial pilot, and 6 of them (Bulgaria, Czechia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania) in depth. We compiled voting results 2001-2021 (both parliamentary and presidential elections) in 15 host countries in Western and Northern Europe - altogether almost 600 voting events. Secondly, we conducted ethnographic research among select groups (Polish and Romanian migrants in Norway and Spain), gathering 80+ semi-structured interviews. This dataset is also unique due to its scope and its focus on political participation. Based on the data gathered, we show patterns of voting behavior among migrants and try to explain what factors account for the migrants' willingness to participate politically, to show up for voting and what influences their political views. While some diaspora communities indeed display illiberal and pro-populist sympathies, on the whole migrants from CEE vote for more liberal and progressive parties than voters 'at home'. Our findings have been presented at numerous conferences, as well as for Norwegian civil servants, and in academic publications.

The project has generated new knowledge and brought together dispersed data on the political dynamics of within-European migration. Our project can help identify and diagnose important socio-political problems which remain under-researched and sometimes unnoticed. A better understanding of the East-West relations through diasporas and the political dynamics in different migrant groups can help host country policymakers design more reflexive tools for enhancing integration and social coherence. This should be especially relevant for Norwegian authorities and public debate, to which we contribute. Our collaboration with a variety of Users, most importantly from Norwegian ministries, as well as impact-oriented publications (reports, policy brief, media articles), should be expected to fuel the debate on the political dynamics of CEE diasporas in Norway.

How can democratic backsliding in Central East Europe (CEE) be understood in relation to the huge intra-European migration of the past decade? Whilst connections between populism and immigration are common, the roles of migrants as subjects in the rise of populism in Europe is an underexplored area, which the DIASPOlitic project will shed light on. Since the 2004/2007 EU Enlargement, some 6 mil people have moved from CEE within the EU/EEA. The political dynamics of these new EU-diasporas have remained below the radar of European studies. Migration studies have, largely, been preoccupied with other aspects than the political. Our focus is on the roles of EU-diasporas as agents, within the context of political change in Europe. Preliminary research on emigre voting patterns, interpreted as an indicator of political views, finds that some EU-diasporas exhibit stronger support for populist, nationalist and illiberal parties and candidates than home country voters do. This would counter the hypothesis of migrants “remitting democracy” back to home countries, which has been an often un-tested assumption in the field of diaspora studies. DIASPOlitic fills the research gap identified above by exploring the political EU-diasporas as political actors, their voting patterns and the impact on home country politics. Do EU-diasporas contribute to democratic backsliding in CEE? Empirically, we will (a) describe and map the changes in political preferences of CEE diasporas after EU accession, (b) explain the roots of these changes, and (c) theorise their contribution to the political change in CEE. Additional research questions include: • How and why do results in diaspora votes differ from voting patterns in home countries? • How does migration and experiences of Western European democracies shape CEE identities: locally grounded self-identifications with ‘European-ness’? • Is there a ‘demise’ of a myth of the ‘West’ in CEE countries? If so, what roles do EU-diasporas play here?

Publications from Cristin

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UTENRIKS-Internasjonale forhold - utenriks- og sikkerhetspolitikk og norske interesser