Anti-migrant protesters clash outside EU headquarters

Mounted police officers and protesters of right-wing and far-right Flemish associations during the 'March Against Marrakech' demonstration near European institutions headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 16 December 2018. [Julien Warnand/EPA/EFE]

Thousands of far-right supporters marched in Brussels on Sunday (16 December) against a UN pact aimed at fostering cooperation on migration, and clashed with police outside the EU headquarters.

Flemish right-wing parties KVHV, NSV, Schild & Vrienden, Voorpost et Vlaams Belang Jongeren called the march, which took place near major EU institutions. Police deployed tear gas and water cannon as clashes broke out. At least 90 people were arrested.

Police said some 5,500 people marched in the bigger protest, organised by Flemish right wing parties in the part of the capital where main European Union institutions are located.

A separate counter-demonstration of around 1,000 people, organised by left-wing groups and non-governmental organisations in support of the UN migration pact, took place in the city centre.

Belgian right-wing N-VA, which is the biggest party in parliament, pulled its ministers from the ruling coalition last week after Prime Minister Charles Michel refused its demand that he not sign the UN migration compact in Marrakesh.

Belgian PM relaunches government as minority after ally quits

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel relaunched his government on Sunday (9 December) as a minority administration after the biggest party in his coalition quit in a dispute over signing the UN migration compact.

Michel had secured a large parliamentary majority in favour of maintaining Belgium’s support of the UN text, with support from the opposition socialists and greens. Critics said the N-VA’s move was the opening shot in a campaign before federal elections in May.

The UN pact was agreed in July by all 193 UN members except the United States, but only 164 formally signed it at the meeting last Monday.

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.

It has run into criticism from European politicians who say it could increase immigration to Europe as the bloc has turned increasingly restrictive on accepting refugees and migrants alike since a 2015 spike in arrivals.

Ten countries, mostly in formerly Communist Eastern Europe, have pulled out of the non-binding pact.

Belgian PM suggests Visegrad countries should be ousted from Schengen

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Friday (14 December) EU countries that show no solidarity in the management of migration open the debate about whether they have a place in the Schengen area.

With a record 21.3 million refugees globally, the United Nations began work on the pact after more than one million people arrived in Europe in 2015, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.

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