The European asylum system is based on the 1990 Dublin Convention and its revisions and developments in EU law. It is an instance of differentiated cooperation, as it initially only coordinated heterogeneous national asylum systems and offered flexible forms of participation with opt-outs for Denmark, Ireland and the UK. This paper investigates the triggers, nature and effects of this differentiated cooperation. By reviewing its evolution over the last thirty years, this paper concludes that differentiation has been decisive to starting European cooperation in a new policy area, that it has created a dynamic of progressive convergence, and that its impact on problem solving has been positive. Accordingly, this paper recommends the use of differentiation to kick-start European cooperation and suggests further differentiated integration to lead to a solution for the persisting problems of effectiveness of the European asylum system.
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