The nations of the EU are increasingly divided over the UN migration pact


BRUSSELS – Just a few days before dozens of countries adhere to a U.N. migration pact, a number of European Union nations have begun to be on the list of those who are unwilling to approve the agreement.

The Global Compact U.N. of 34 pages for safe, tidy and regular migration must be formally approved in Marrakech, Morocco, from December 10th to 11th.

The drafting procedure was initiated after all 193 UN member states, including the United States under President Barack Obama, adopted in 2016 a statement that no country can handle international migration on its own and has agreed to work on a global agreement.

But the United States, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, withdrew a year ago, arguing that numerous provisions of the pact were "inconsistent with US immigration and refugee policies".

Despite its non-binding nature, Bulgaria reported this week that it will not sign the pact, as well as Slovakia, whose foreign minister resigned in protest against the position of his government. Meanwhile, the Belgian government was wavering on the verge of collapse, torn apart by the coalition's disagreements over the pact.

"It's too pro-migration, it does not have the nuance it needs to comfort European citizens," said Belgian migration minister Theo Francken on Thursday.

"It is not legally binding, but it is not exempt from legal risks," he said, adding that rights laws are widely interpreted in the EU courts and those judgments bind the hands of migration policymakers.

Francken said his right-wing N-VA party wants "to have nothing to do with it".

But Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has agreed on migration in parliament on Thursday, where it was approved against the will of the N-VA, the largest party in its ruling coalition.

The arrival of over 1 million migrants in Europe in 2015 – most of the escaping conflicts in Syria or Iraq – has thrown the EU into a deep political crisis on migration, while the countries have quarreled about how handle the challenge and how much help we provide to the countries hardest hit by the influx. Their inability to agree helped to nurture support for anti-migrant parties across Europe.

Experts say the pact is an easy goal. Leaving him can play well with the anti-migrant domestic public and pulling himself out has no obvious negative effects on governments.

"Those who have opposed the global pact, have they read? It is only a framework of cooperation with all countries", said European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday. "It is not binding, it does not question national sovereignty".

Other EU countries to turn their backs to the document are Hungary and Poland, which opposed refugee quotas to share the burden of Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Greece and, more recently, Spain, where most of the migrants arrive.

But the withdrawal of Austria, holder of the presidency of the European Union until the end of the year, had an enormous symbolic importance.

Austrian Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, in a coalition with the nationalist anti-immigration party for freedom, announced the departure of Austria from the pact in October, highlighting "some points that we consider critical and in which we fear a danger to our sovereignty national".

Francken said that never before had the chief negotiator for the European states, Austria, "pulled out the plug.This gave a lot of political shock effect in all countries".

It remains to be seen whether the North African countries – and others like Turkey, which the EU has outsourced to its migration challenge – see this as a new sign that migration management can only be done under the conditions of Europe.

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