Six EU countries – and counting – back out from the global migration pact

File photo. Flags fly above diplomatic vehicles on the first day of high-level meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 24 September 2018. [Peter Foley/EPA/EFE]

Bulgaria has become the sixth EU country after Hungary, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Croatia to signal that it will not sign the global migration agreement at a ceremony in Morocco in December.

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

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

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

The Czech Republic was the next to announce that it is moving out of the deal.

Czech PM wants to leave global migration pact

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Thursday (1 November) he wanted to pull the Czech Republic out of a United Nations migration deal and would discuss this with his governing coalition partner, news website idnes.cz reported.

In the meantime, it was reported that the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had announced that she would not sign “the Marrakesh agreement”, while the government still appears willing.

Bulgaria became the next in line, as it made clear it would not sign the pact, in an attempt to calm down boiling protests at home. Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the leader of the ruling GERB party in the country’s parliament, broke the news on Monday (12 November).

Various protests, including against the price of fuels and the expected increase of car insurance, are taking place simultaneously in Bulgaria, threatening to sink the fragile coalition between Boyko Borissov’s GERB with the United Patriots, a trio of nationalist and extremist forces.

Some of the scandals have recently have been engineered by the United Patriots, who hold two portfolios of deputy prime ministers.

In this context, Kornelia Ninova, the leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), said she would lead the battle against the global migration pact, which according to her was against the national interest. GERB’s move is seen as an attempt to defuse this new front.

On 31 October, the European Commission voiced its regret at the decision of Austria, the country holding the rotating EU presidency, not to sign the pact.

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

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. 

Critics of the pact say it blurs the line between legal and illegal migration.

Asked by EURACTIV to comment, Commission chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas quoted his boss Jean-Claude Juncker having said earlier on Monday in Berlin, that “those countries that decided they are leaving the UN migration compact, had they read it, they would not have done it”.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson to EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, added that according to UN practice, the state representatives would not sign the compact, but adoption would take place either by consensus or vote.

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