by Josh Gold, BA (Hons), European Studies & Peace and Conflict Studies

On September 22, 2015, the European Union (EU) implemented an asylum relocation scheme, which was to help ease the burden of mass migration of refugees suffered by countries like Greece and Italy. The scheme has largely failed. The EU was divided, exposing serious rifts as some countries accepted large numbers, while others openly defied the scheme, refusing to take any refugees. While migration today has decreased significantly from 2015 and 2016 peaks, serious problems remain, and it is necessary to reevaluate and continue to push for reform of key policies within the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) in general, and particularly regarding the Dublin rules. With the polarisation of EU members between pro and anti-refugee policies, this research paper will focus on the case of Estonia, a country that has tried to occupy a middle ground in the context of the relocation policy. It will discuss the Estonian case and background, investigating and seeking to explain the discrepancy between Estonian government policy and public opinion, and how each evolved over time. The management and evolution of Estonia’s participation in the relocation scheme will be examined, as well as domestic consequences. From this focus on the Estonian case, a few broad conclusions will be drawn about the effectiveness of the relocation scheme, which will touch upon ideas that could potentially be applied to other similar countries in Europe. Research consisted of public opinion data, academic literature, official reports and statistics, government releases, and a media analysis of Estonian news articles from 2015-2018. Ultimately, the narrow focus on the Estonian case, which is the first such report of its kind, offers important information for European policymakers as they continue to reform the CEAS.