Mobility, Migration and the COVID-19 Epidemic: Governing Emergencies in Lithuania and Poland

Project idea

The research project seeks to examine forms of governance over mobility (including international migration) in Lithuania and Poland during COVID-19. Its aim is to contribute: 1) to conceptualise mobility and migration within the perspective of emergency governance; 2) to investigate wider socio-political roots of the emergency policies towards mobility and migration. The study also enables an empirical comparative analysis of the emergency governance models adopted by Poland and Lithuania, its roots and thus contributes to the ongoing discussion on the variation of individual states’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis and the alleged specific characteristics of the ‘new’ European Union (the EU) member states' (MS) responses.

Lithuania and Poland serve as the most similar case study comparisons as both are ‘new’ EU MS which have many cultural, historical and socio-economical similarities in their styles of state governance and emergency responses (including migration policies); and both have dealt fairly well with the pandemic (at least in the first part of 2020) according to both external and internal assessments. Yet they differ in their sizes, in their attitudes towards international cooperation, as well as in their economic and welfare models. Comparing them would allow the regional specificity in COVID-19 response to be indicated and provide a deeper understanding of the different choices both countries have made. We distinguish the initial mobilisation phase of each state’s reaction to the pandemics that appeared in March-June 2020 and the subsequent routinisation phase (since June 2020).

The project addresses two main research questions: 1) what forms of governance towards mobility and migration have appeared as a result of these states’ reaction to COVID-19? and 2) what were the main similarities and differences in both states’ emergency management and their deeper socio-political roots (including models of resilience)? The impact of the project’s results on the development of the field of research and scientific discipline: This research is innovative and original in regard to its theme, approach and methodology. Studying mobility within emergencies is a very uncommon research approach. Migration should maintain a a pivotal place within this perspective, taking into the account high level of migrants’ mobility on the one hand, and the state’s preoccupation with the migrants’ control on the other. Also, foreigners operating at the margins of state sovereignty, usually receive more state’s attention during emergencies. Our study is intended to fill up a vacuum in research on emergency politics and how new modes of governance and policy practices arise as an effect of epidemics, in particular looking at the continuum between anticipation, new forms of control and state’s improvisation. We will contribute to the further development of political science by: 1) studying mobility and
migration via the emergency politics perspective; 2) providing refined comparative studies outside the traditional setting of the US and Western Europe; 3) comparatively studying the origins (via studying resilience mechanisms) and empirical forms of the emergency politics.

The project is embedded in comparative political studies, but also considers critical security studies, political sociology and Europeanisation studies. In particular, its epistemic approach is anchored in theories of emergency politics. The project is organised around the implementation of five working packages: 1) theory, methods; a comparative framework for analysis; 2) an analysis of the overall discourses, policies and governance practices to fight COVID-19 epidemic adopted by Lithuania and Poland in the wider European context; 3) case studies investigating both countries’ policies towards mobility and international migration; 4) the socio-political and historical context of the mobility and migration policies, including the relation between the internal political and social factors and the perception for external circumstances; 5) the comparative study of the emergency approaches to mobility and migration applied by both states and their wider theoretical implications. The project applies two main methods: critical discourse analysis and the process-tracing approach.