Vienna announced on Wednesday that it would not sign the UN's Global Compact on Migration, citing concerns about sovereignty and legal confusion in the document as it joined neighboring Hungary in shunning the agreement.
Austria’s interior minister, Herbert Kickl, denounced what he called “an almost irresponsibly naive pro-migration tone” in the UN document.
Kickl added: “It is simply not clear whether this pact, if we were to join it, would not at some point or somehow influence our body of law, even by the back door.”
The Austrian cabinet – a coalition between the conservative People’s party and the Freedom party – agreed that any attempt to establish a human right to migration, confuses the rights of asylum seekers with those of economic migrants.
“There are some points that we view critically and where we fear a danger to our national sovereignty,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told the Austria Press Agency.
Neither Kurz nor Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache will not sign the document or send an official representative from Austria to Marrakech.
“Migration is not and cannot become a human right,” Strache, Freedom Party’s leader, noted. “It cannot be that someone receives a right to migration because of the climate or poverty.”
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, was formulated under UN auspices in July and is due to be approved at a meeting in Morocco, on 11 -12 December this year.
During the migration crisis of 2015, more than 90 000 people applied for asylum in Austria, more per capita than any other EU member state, the Guardian reported. The president of the Austrian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, had rushed to the border to personally welcome the “refugees”.
But migrants flooding into the labour market is one of the reasons why more than 40 percent of Austrians now also regret joining the EU. The Visegrad countries in central Europe – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – have also clashed with the EU over mandatory migrant quotas.
On Thursday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that the difference between legal and illegal migration was becoming blurred. “I will be proposing to my partners in government that we act in the same way as Austria or Hungary,” he said, according to a parliamentary transcript.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will not sign the Global Compact either, Croatian newsportal Direktno reported.
In a Facebook post, Croatian TV journalist Velimir Bujanec quoted an answer from the President that his editorial board had received. The President’s reply was forwarded by her spokeswoman, Ivana Crnić: “Your concern about illegal migration and the ‘Marrakesh Agreement’ is absolutely understandable. […] Be sure I will not sign the ‘Marrakech Agreement’.”
The US has also withdrawn from the compact, while Poland is considering not signing the accord.
According to The Washington Post, the compact has 23 objectives that seek to boost cooperation on migration and numerous actions ranging from the portability of earnings by migrant workers to reducing the detention of migrants.
In Brussels, Natasha Bertaud, a spokeswoman for the EU’s executive Commission, said at a regular press briefing they were seeking more details from Vienna.
“We continue to believe that migration is a global challenge where only global solutions and global responsibility-sharing will bring results,” she said. The European commission spokeswoman told the Guardian: “We regret the decision that the Austrian government has taken.”
Germany has reaffirmed its support for the Global Compact, with foreign ministry spokesman Rainer Breul stating it was “necessary and important”.