Explicitly redistributive EU policy instruments are rare. This article seeks to account for the recent establishment of the European refugee fund (ERF), and assess its effectiveness in 'promoting a balance of efforts in receiving and bearing the consequences of displaced persons'. It argues that the decision to create the ERF can be interpreted as an act of partly solidaristic, but mostly symbolic, EU politics. The ERF's redistributive rules are characterized by a side-payment logic in which countries that possess the greatest potential (or most credible threat) to cause difficulties in other areas of EU policy-making are most influential when it comes to the distribution of EU spoils. While this logic can facilitate moves towards further integration, it undermines the achievement of the EU's redistributive objectives
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