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Project information

Project team

Judith Miggelbrink (Projektleitung), Bettina Bruns, Andreas Wust, Helga Zichner, Kristine Müller (IRS), Sabine Zillmer (IRS), Bernd Belina (Universität Frankfurt/Main)


University of Cluj (Romania); University of Joensuu (Finland); University of Münster; University of Vienna (Austria); University of Grodno (Belarus); University of Bialystok (Poland); Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning; Nat. Academy of Public Administration of Ukraine, L'viv (Ukraine); Brest State University, Belarus; University of Oldenburg; University of Bialystok (Poland); University Slezská Ostrava (Czech Republic); University of Joensuu (Finland)

Duration of project


Funded by

Bund (BMVBS) und Freistaat Sachsen (SMWK) im Rahmen des Pakts für Forschung und Innovation

Further information

Judith Miggelbrink
Tel.: +49 341 600 55-109

Geographies at the edges of the European project

Spatial orientation and peripheralization at the external borders of the expanded European Union

The project was interested in transborder economic practices, especially in small scale trade (shuttle trade) and small scale production. Ever since the Schengen treaty of 1985, the European Union establishes a common external border as the downside of its increasing integration. This results, firstly, in a security border on the edges of the EU, where a uniform regime of control and surveillance is sought, and, secondly, the intensification of passport and residents’ checks within the Schengen space. In practice and in concrete situations, these different demands and interests do not result in order and unambiguousness - theoretically the central functions of social borders - but in complex and sometimes contradictory conditions of agency. De facto, the EU external border has a variety of impacts, differing according to social context. Contradictions do not only arise out of different actors' use of the border, but are inherent in the construction of the political-administrative border regime itself.

These contradictions materialize in border related practices. The crossing of the border is the moment/place, where the negotiation of state/ness and border becomes manifest. If we are to understand the effects the spatially formed "sociological entity" (Simmel) of the EU external border has on everyday practices, it does not suffice to analyse 'geopolitical' representations, constructions and symbolisms. The analysis of the border regime has to start with an analysis of the formation and implementation of souvereignty claims and regimes on the parts of states and the EU. As the construction of the EU external border - as a relevant factor for the social world, producing effective (space) orderings - is based on social power relations, which separate legal from illegal and formal from informal activities of border crossing, it has hegemonic character. This means that all social practices of border crossing are forced to engage with the socially produced space of the border and must appropriate it in one way or another. In this context, the border, as any socially produced space, acts as "a medium, a context and a means, a tool and an intermediary" (Lefebvre) and has to be appropriated as such in social practices. The specific meanings of the border in relation to specific forms of social practices manifest only in the border's use, i.e. in concrete negotiations.


Petty traders and entrepreneurs carrying out transborder economic practices do so in strategic and tactic ways, depending on their social and economic capital. They try to reduce the risk of losing goods while crossing the border as much as possible. Doing so, they are confronted with the homogenization process of the EU border regime (e.g. in terms of the enlargement of the Schengen sphere) and with national customs and border crossing regulations. According to these changing conditions they apply various practices:

  • spatial reorientation towards other border sections
  • entrepreneurial reorganisation of the border crossing procedure
  • change of goods’ assortment
  • creating network relations with border authorities
  • creation of entrepreneurial networks

None of these actors takes center stage in the political discussions and decisions concerning the creation of a standardized external EU border. Nevertheless, exactly these persons are forced to deal with the border and its effects in their everyday lives. Being confronted with the border regime’s regulations and involving them into their daily activities, they take part in defining the EU border regime’s reality on a daily basis. Therefore, the analysis of micro practices is important in order to understand the complex relation between the politically wanted homogenization and the actual local practical orientations.

Miggelbrink, Judith (2014): Crossing lines, crossed by lines. Everyday Practices and Local Border Traffic in Schengen regulated Borderlands. In: Jones, Reece / Johnson, Corey (Hrsg.): Making the Border in Everyday Life. Farnham: Ashgate, S. 137-166 (Border Regions Series)

Müller, Kristine / Miggelbrink, Judith (2014): “The glove compartment half-full of letters” – Informality and cross-border trade at the rims of the Schengen Area. In: Morris, J. / Polese, A. (Hrsg.): The Informal Post-Socialist Economy. Embedded practices and livelihood. London and New York: Routledge, S. 152-164 (Routledge Russia and Eastern Europe Series)

Belina, Bernd / Miggelbrink, Judith (2013): Risk as a technology of power. FRONTEX as an example of the de-politicisation of EU migration regimes. In: Müller-Mahn, D. (Hrsg.): The Spatial Dimension of Risk. How Geography Shapes the Emergence of Riskscapes. London: Earthscan, S. 124-136

Bruns, Bettina (2013): Grenze als Ressource. In: Gebhardt, Hans / Glaser, Rüdiger / Lentz, Sebastian(Hrsg.): Europa – eine Geographie. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, S. 204-205

Bruns, Bettina / Miggelbrink, Judith / Müller, Kristine / Wust, Andreas / Zichner, Helga (2013): Making a Living on the Edges of a Security Border. Everyday Tactics and Strategies at the Eastern Border of the European Union. In: Schulz, C. / Koff, H. (Hrsg.): Theorizing Borders Through Analyses of Power Relationships. Brüssel u.a.: Lang, S. 89-110 (Regional Integration and Social Cohesion; 9)

Miggelbrink, Judith (2013): Immer unter Verdacht? Identitätszuschreibungen im Kontext des Kleinhandels an der Außengrenze der Europäischen Union. In: Geographica Helvetica, 68(3), S. 201-211

Miggelbrink, Judith (2013): Vom „Eisernen Vorhang“ zum Schengen-Abkommen – Entwicklung der Grenzen und Grenzregime in Europa und in der EU. In: Gebhardt, Hans / Glaser, Rüdiger / Lentz, Sebastian (Hrsg.): Europa – eine Geographie. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, S. 208-211

Müller, Kristine (2013): Yet another layer of peripheralization: Dealing with the consequences of the Schengen treaty at the edges of the EU territory. In: Fischer-Tahir, Andrea / Naumann, Matthias (Hrsg.): Peripheralization: The Making of Spatial Dependencies and Social Injustice. Heidelberg u.a., S. 187-206

Bruns, Bettina / Miggelbrink, Judith (2012): Introduction. In: Bruns, Bettina / Miggelbrink, Judith (Hrsg.): Subverting Borders. Doing Research on Smuggling and Small-Scale Trade. Wiesbaden: VS, S. 11-19

Bruns, Bettina / Miggelbrink, Judith / Müller, Kristine (2011): Smuggling and small-scale trade as part of informal economic practices – empirical findings from the Eastern external EU border. In: International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 31 (11/12), S. 664-680

Müller, Kristine (2011): „‚Schiffchen‘ sind auch Einheimische. Sie haben da alle ein wunderschönes Leben“. Die Rolle von Identitäten bei der Überschreitung der EU-Außengrenze. In: Heller, Wilfried (Hrsg.): Identitäten und Imaginationen der Bevölkerung in Grenzräumen. Münster, S. 149-163 (Region – Nation – Europa; 64)

Wust, Andreas / Zichner, Helga (2011): Crossing the border: Transborder practices of small-scale economic actors at the EU’s new external border between Romania and Ukraine. In: Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai. Series Geographia 56 (1), S. 199-206

Belina, Bernd / Miggelbrink, Judith (2010): Am Ostrand des „wettbewerbsfähigsten Wirtschaftsraums der Welt“. (Raum-)Theoretische Überlegungen zur Produktion der EU-Außengrenze als Territorialisierungs- und Skalenstrategie. In: Lukowski, Wojciech / Wagner, Matthias (Hrsg.): Alltag im Grenzland. Schmuggel als ökonomische Strategie an der EU-Ostgrenze. Wiesbaden: VS, S. 215-230

Belina, Bernd / Miggelbrink, Judith (2010): Hier so, dort anders. Zum Vergleichen von Raumeinheiten in der Wissenschaft und anderswo. In: Belina, Bernd / Miggelbrink, Judith (Hrsg.): Hier so, dort anders. Raumbezogene Vergleiche in der Wissenschaft und anderswo. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot, S. 7-39 (Raumproduktionen; 6)

Bruns, Bettina / Zichner, Helga (2010): Moral an der Grenze? Theoretische Überlegungen und empirische Befunde zur Moral im Alltag an der östlichen Außengrenze der Europäischen Union. In: Geographische Revue (1), S. 21-36

Wust, Andreas / Zichner, Helga (2010). "Here is the Wall!" - Is it? Transborder practices of small-scale economic actors at the Ukrainian-Romanian border. In: revue d'études comparatives Est-Ouest 41(4), S. 171-193

Bruns, Bettina / Miggelbrink, Judith / Müller, Kristine / Wust, Andreas / Zichner, Helga (2009): Handeln an der Außengrenze der Europäischen Union. In: Krämer, R. (Hrsg.): Grenzen in den internationalen Beziehungen, Potsdam, S. 210-223 (WeltTrends Lehrtexte; 14)

Miggelbrink, Judith (2009): Der tägliche Weg über die Grenze. Kleinunternehmer/innen an der  Außengrenze der Europäischen Union. In: Leiter Geo (Hrsg.): Jahresheft Geopolitik 2008, S. 14-18 (Schriftenreihe Geoinformationsdienst der Bundeswehr; 18)