EU na­tions in­creas­ingly di­vided over UN mi­gra­tion pact

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

JUST days be­fore scores of coun­tries sign up to a land­mark U.N. mi­gra­tion pact, a num­ber of Euro­pean Union na­tions have be­gun join­ing the list of those not will­ing to en­dorse the agree­ment. The 34-page U.N. Global Com­pact for Safe, Orderly and Reg­u­lar Mi­gra­tion is to be for­mally ap­proved in Mar­rakech, Morocco, on Dec. 10-11. The draft­ing process was launched af­ter all 193 U.N. mem­ber states, in­clud­ing the United States un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, adopted in 2016 a dec­la­ra­tion say­ing no coun­try can man­age in­ter­na­tional mi­gra­tion on its own and agreed to work on a global com­pact.

The non-bind­ing U.N. ac­cord, which aims to pro­mote a com­mon ap­proach to grow­ing mi­grant flows, has be­come a tar­get for pop­ulist politi­cians who de­nounce it as an af­front to na­tional sovereignty. The United States, un­der Pres­i­dent Don- ald Trump, pulled out a year ago, claim­ing that nu­mer­ous pro­vi­sions in the pact were “in­con­sis­tent with U.S. im­mi­gra­tion and refugee poli­cies.” Since then, Aus­tralia, Is­rael, Poland, Slo­vakia, the Czech Repub­lic, Aus­tria, Switzer­land, Bul­garia, Latvia and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic have ei­ther pub­licly dis­avowed the pact or no­ti­fied the United Na­tions they are not par­tic­i­pat­ing.

De­spite its non-bind­ing na­ture, Bul­garia sig­naled this week that it will not sign the pact, as did Slo­vakia, whose for­eign minister re­signed in protest at his gov­ern­ment’s stance. Mean­while, Bel­gium’s gov­ern­ment was tee­ter­ing on the brink of col­lapse, riven by coali­tion dif­fer­ences over the pact.

But key back­ers led by Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel will be in Morocco to en­dorse the pact and the U.N. re­mains up­beat that it can help the world bet­ter cope with the hot-but­ton is­sue. “I am very con­fi­dent: a large num­ber of states con­tinue to keep their word, they reached agree­ment on July 13 in New York af­ter very se­ri­ous and very in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions,” U.N. spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for mi­gra­tion Louise Ar­bour told AFP.

The ar­rival in Europe in 2015 of well over 1 mil­lion mi­grants — most flee­ing con­flict in Syria or Iraq — plunged the EU into a deep political cri­sis over mi­gra­tion, as coun­tries bick­ered over how to man­age the chal­lenge and how much help to pro­vide those coun­tries hard­est hit by the in­flux. Their in­abil­ity to agree helped fuel sup­port for anti-mi­grant par­ties across Europe. Ex­perts say the pact is an easy tar­get. Leav­ing it can play well with an­timi­grant do­mes­tic au­di­ences and pulling out has no ob­vi­ous neg­a­tive im­pacts on gov­ern­ments. “The ones who op­posed the global com­pact, have they read it? It is only a frame­work of co­op­er­a­tion with all coun­tries,” EU Mi­gra­tion Com­mis­sioner Dim­itris Avramopou­los said Thurs­day. “It is not bind­ing. It doesn’t put in ques­tion na­tional sovereignty.”

Other EU coun­tries to turn their back on the doc­u­ment are Hun­gary and Poland, which have op­posed refugee quotas aimed at shar­ing the bur­den of Mediter­ranean coun­tries like Italy, Greece and more re­cently Spain, where most mi­grants are ar­riv­ing.

But the with­drawal of Aus­tria — holder of the EU’s pres­i­dency until the end of the year — has been of high sym­bolic im­por­tance. Con­ser­va­tive Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Se­bas­tian Kurz, in a coali­tion with the na­tion­al­ist, anti-mi­gra­tion Free­dom Party, an­nounced Aus­tria’s de­par­ture from the pact in Oc­to­ber, high­light­ing “some points that we view crit­i­cally and where we fear a dan­ger to our na­tional sovereignty.”

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