The role of Interest Groups in European Union Immigration Policy: Harmonization of National and European Policies.
Migration policy is one area that does not and cannot have a silent tradition of European integration. The main reasons are the differing experiences and well-anchored patterns of immigration policy. What is more, it (immigration policy) represents a case in which the political elite is highly dependent on its performance of public resonance. Under these conditions, public opinion finds its niche as one of the decisive factors which legitimises the EU’s immigration policy. Research shows that in the Area of EU Freedom, Security and Justice, most European public opinion is divided on asylum and immigration policy harmonisation. Although a clear majority (63%) are in favour of greater European governance in this area, a significant proportion (24%) would like to see a weaker role for the EU. The problem is that only 13% feel well informed about immigration policy and only 27% of respondents would like to know more. This situation supports another trend - the divide between public preferences and the behaviour of the EU elite in this political sphere. Despite the growing public backlash to immigration, the European elite has an agreement to promote a liberal immigration policy in the EU. It is noted that the importance of public opinion strengthens the small networks of academics, lawyers, NGO activists and the elite, which use their expertise and suggestions of the European immigration policy, leaving behind public attitudes and the opinions of immigrants. In addition, one must note the existence and importance of a deep divide between the public, national and EU-based NGOs or other interest groups. It should be noted that the difference between inadequate policies turns immigration into a source of social conflicts, thus allowing the vicious circle between the negative perceptions of immigration and immigration policy- making and implementation. Lithuania, as an EU leader in the field of emigration (immigration will inevitably be the challenge), lacks comprehensive research, that states the consequences of the phenomenon and highlights the challenges. The state should take the EU’s active position on immigration policy-making and implementation, in coordination with national and European interests. Thus, this planned scientific work, which will explore the impact of interest groups on EU policy on immigration to harmonization looking through a neo-institutionalistic approach, will be a new and valuable contribution to the analysis of the development of democracy in both Lithuania and the EU.