Global Migration Pact puts Belgian ruling coalition in jeopardy

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel speaks during a plenary session at the federal parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 22 November 2018. The main subject of the plenary session is the UN Migration Pact. In Belgium, the issue of the migration pact is controversial within the federal government. [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/EFE]

The future of Belgium’s coalition government has come under threat after Prime Minister Charles Michel said he would back the UN Global Migration Compact in Marrakesh on 10 December, despite opposition from his coalition partner, the Flemish right-wing N-VA party.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was approved in July by all 193 member UN nations except the United States, which backed out last year, and is due to be ratified formally in December.

The pact was conceived after the biggest influx of migrants into Europe since World War Two, many of them fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and beyond.

But in recent months, opposition to the pact has been growing, with critics saying that it makes no distinction between legal and illegal migration. The list of EU countries pulling out from the global migration pact is getting longer almost by the day.

Slovakia becomes 8th EU country to oppose global migration pact

All Visegrad countries have now rejected the United Nations pact on the treatment of migrants worldwide, after Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini on Sunday (25 November) announced his country’s position after the EU summit.

Michel said the international credibility of Belgium, which had approved the document last September, was at stake. He also said Belgium could not afford to oppose the pact while the countries surrounding it are expected to support it.

The Belgian PM also announced he would take the issue to the federal parliament. Some commentators see the vote in the Belgian parliament as an attempt by Michel to forge a new majority.

Michel’s MR party (ALDE-affiliated) has been in coalition since 2014 with the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA, ECR-affiliated), the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V, EPP-affiliated), the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vld, ALDE affiliated).

Should N-VA choose to pull out from the government, this would probably lead to a breakup of the coalition.

A possible clash could also be a setback for the efforts to ensure Belgium’s unity via amendments to the country’s constitution. N-VA has promised a reform of the institutions, leading to confederalism after the 2019 legislative elections. Failure to do so would boost the separatist Flemish Vlaams Belang.

In the meantime, N-VA has started a social media campaign against the Global Migration, decried as racist by rights groups. Michel called the campaign “scandalous” and “undignified”.

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