The Brief – No roadmaps needed for experienced travellers

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Morocco is a tree with its roots in Africa and its branches in Europe. So said the late King Hassan II of Morocco.

That partly explains why hosting the UN migration summit in Marrakech, which formally adopted the UN’s contentious Global Compact for Migration on Monday (10 December), was so important to the government in Rabat.

Morocco has spent the last few years positioning itself as the bridge between Africa, Europe and North America, not to mention Europe’s most reliable partner, both economically and on migration, in the Magreb.

“We are experiencing the same patterns as Europe,” a Moroccan government official told EURACTIV in November, adding that “Morocco has gone from being a country of transit to one of settlement.”

That kind of enlightened approach is in short supply.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the Compact as a “roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos.”

In truth, however, the Compact itself has staggered over the finishing line and is unlikely to be put into practice any time soon. Eight EU governments have either refused to sign it or expressed grave reservations. So, too, have the United States and Australia – nations which were both built, in their modern form, on the backs of generations of migrants.

The right-wing N-VA walked out of Belgium’s coalition government at the weekend over the Compact. Germany’s Angela Merkel has been severely criticised  – and weakened – because of her public support for a liberal migration policy.

But why the controversy?

The 23 ‘objectives’ in the compact hardly seem controversial. Ensuring that refugees and economic migrants have documentation, co-operation on readmission and return, and promoting “evidence-based public discourse” on migration, should not be ground-breaking

It hardly seems controversial to suggest that unless nations co-operate, avoidable tragedies such as the Mediterranean Sea becoming a graveyard for thousands of refugees and would-be migrants, will continue. Migration won’t stop as long as there are wars and huge economic divides within countries and continents.

The numbers suggest that the migration crisis of 2014 and 2015 is a thing of the past, certainly as far as Europe is concerned.

Several governments, including Austria and Hungary, have complained that the compact fails to distinguish between the rights of asylum-seekers and those of economic migrants.

But this is a cynical smokescreen. The Compact is not legally binding, it does not bind countries to take certain numbers of asylum seekers or economic migrants, and does not create a right to migration, as claimed by some far-right groups.

Those hoping that Europe will, finally, be able to break its own internal impasse on reforming asylum and immigration law, are surely going to be disappointed.

Presented with a ‘roadmap’, a handful of European and world leaders have replied that maps are unnecessary for experienced travellers.

The Roundup

by Zoran Radosavljevic

In the UK, Theresa May postpones a crucial Brexit vote in the House of Commons, as the European Court of Justice rules that the UK can unilaterally halt the Brexit process, should it wish to do so.

The gilets jaunes [yellow vests] in France are using Facebook, but the social network is struggling to create a proper structure for the movement. The topics raised most often in France’s citizens’ consultations were the environment, citizenship and social issues, hardly reflecting the European institutions’ current political agenda.

Under pressure from regulators, truck makers are grumbling a little less about CO2 reductions, instead focusing their comments on the lack of recharging infrastructure in cities and motorways.

At COP24, stakeholders debate the economic aspect of climate change, as well as ways to decarbonise transport [hint: there may be more ways, beyond electric cars].

In Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan won elections to become prime minister as voters handed him a landslide victory.

A jubilant Matteo Salvini addressed thousands of supporters to the sound of Italian opera [Nessun Dorma from Turandot, to be precise] in Rome on Saturday, to celebrate the first six months in power and call for more support and unity.

European Socialists, meanwhile, expectedly endorsed Dutchman Frans Timmermans, the Commission first vice-president, as their lead candidate for elections next May.

And in case you missed it last Friday, Germanys CDU decided that Angela Merkel will be replaced as party chair by… ‘mini-Merkel’, as Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is sometimes referred to for sharing most political views with her mentor.

Look out for…

General Affairs Council:  ministers meet to discuss long-term budget and prepare the next EU Summit on 13-14 December. Officially, Brexit is not on the agenda, but…

Views are the author’s

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