Commission regrets Austria’s decision not to sign the global migration pact

Federal Chancellor of Austria Sebastian Kurz and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban pose as they arrive for a dinner at the Felsenreitschule theatre, during the EU Informal Heads of State Summit in Salzburg, Austria, 19 September 2018. [Christian Bruna/EPA/EFE]

Austria will follow the United States and Hungary in backing out of a United Nations pact on migration over concerns that it will blur the line between legal and illegal migration, the right-wing government told media on Wednesday (31 October). The EU Commission regretted the decision.

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

Hungary’s right-wing government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a hardliner on immigration, has said it will not sign the final document at a ceremony in Morocco in December.

Poland, which has also clashed with Brussels by resisting national quotas for asylum seekers, is considering the same step.

“We have decided that we will not join the pact,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a conservative and an immigration hardliner who governs in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, told ORF radio.

Austria will not send an envoy to the signing ceremony in Morocco and will abstain from a UN vote on the pact next year, ORF and news agency APA said, citing Kurz and far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, adding that the cabinet would formally approve the move on Wednesday.

“We will therefore abstain in the vote at the UN General Assembly in the year 2019,” Kurz told ORF. He and Strache expressed concerns about the pact this month, saying it could restrict sovereignty.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Asked for a reaction on Wednesday, also having in view that Austria assumes the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertraud said:

“We regret the decision the Austrian government has taken. We continue to believe that migration is a global challenge where only global solutions and global responsibility-sharing will bring results.”

She reminded that Austria had played “an extremely constructive and key role in the negotiations” on the global pact. This however was under a previous socialist-led government.

Answering follow-up questions, Bertaud said it would not be the EU as such, but the individual EU countries that will sign the final document in Morocco.

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