Dissertation defence – Johan Ekstedt

Friday 14 June, 13:15 - 17:00
Niagara, auditorium C (NI:C0E11), Nordenskiöldsgatan 1

Welcome to Johan Ekstedt's dissertion defence. Johan is a doctoral student at the Department of Global Political Studies at the Faculty of Culture and Society.

Title of the dissertation

Under the hood of the European Union Agency for Asylum: A study of bureaucratic structures, institutional arrangements and frontline caseworkers.

Faculty opponent

  • Associate Professor Andrea Spehar, University of Gothenburg

Examining committee

  • Professor Mikael Spång, Malmö University
  • Professor Gabriella Elgenius, University of Gothenburg, UK
  • Honorary Associate Professor Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, University of Warwick, UK
  • Associate Professor Martin Qvist, Stockholm University (reserve member)

Public defence chairperson

  • Associate Professor Christian Fernandez, Malmö University


This page will be updated on the day of the defence to include a live stream video of the event.


Questions for the public defence can be emailed to Christian Fernandez:

Christian Fernandez

The dissertation defence will be held in English. The defence is open to all and no registration is required.



The European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) operates within an ethically complex field. In particular, those employed by the agency to perform duties at the European Unions (EU)’s external borders or with significant daily contact with refugees, are consistently faced with ethically challenging questions. This, in combination with the importance of its operations, makes the agency a very interesting organisation to study. Nevertheless, the EUAA is an understudied agency. In particular, too little academic attention has been given to the agency’s direct involvement in asylum case processing in the Mediterranean region, and its role as a central actor within the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is often overlooked. This thesis contributes to fill this research gap and provides the reader with a thorough understanding of the agency’s intended purpose, how it has developed over time and, above all, how it operates in practice.

The four articles that make up this thesis cover four distinct research questions. The first article is an investigation of how the EUAA’s officially articulated de jure values are interpreted by EUAA caseworkers on the ground, and how the agency’s actual practice corresponds to these values. It is concluded that the partial disconnect between de jure values and on-the-ground activities negatively impacts the caseworkers’ morale, and that local managers attempts to establish a normative narrative that better suits the agency’s operational reality is largely rejected by the caseworkers. The second article is a case study on how discretionary practices differs between EUAA personnel and national Member State asylum caseworkers. It concludes that the unique bureaucratic configuration caseworkers, with limited formal decision-making authority, short-term contracts and compartmentalised work duties, removes the possibility from caseworkers to deploy discretionary practices. In this article it is also shown how caseworkers can develop different strategies to deal with ethical dilemmas in their everyday work. The third article look at the agency’s work with developing bureaucratic instruments that can be used by Member State authority staff. Taking the agency’s work within third country resettlement as a case study, this article shows how the agency’ can gather multiple actors within the Common European Asylum System in order to bring about gradual policy change despite of great political turmoil in the higher levels of administration. This article concludes that the European Union Agency for Asylum has managed to create a resettlement subfield with increasingly convergent bureaucratic practices. The fourth article looks at how the EUAA could be developed in the future. Given the limited legal mandate of the agency, but increasingly strong organisational capacity, I ask if it is plausible to imagine asylum case processing becoming an entirely supranational responsibility of a European Union agency. It is concluded that significant legal changes would be required in order for this to become a reality, but that the administrative capacity to do so has already been developed by the European Union Agency for Asylum.