Italian Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini confirmed on Wednesday that Italy will not be signing the UN United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at an intergovernmental conference to be held in Marrakech next month.
Salvini said the Italian government will first debate the issue in parliament before doing anything, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
“Just like the Swiss, who carried forward the Global Compact up until yesterday and then said ‘everyone stop’, the Italian government will not sign anything and will not go to Marrakech,” Salvini told the Italian Lower House.
“The floor of parliament must debate it. The Italian government will allow parliament to decide”.
Last month the Swiss government initially announced their approval of the Compact, but following harsh criticism from various political parties in the Swiss parliament, notably from conservatives, the government later backtracked, saying that it would not attend the international conference in Marrakesh.
It said it wanted to wait for parliamentary debates on the issue during the forthcoming winter session before deciding whether to sign the migration deal. The Swiss Federal Commission on Migration (FCM) – a 30-member extra-parliamentary group – has recommended that Switzerland sign the Compact, announcing on Wednesday that a Swiss ratification of the compact is not only desirable, but “necessary”.
The FCM’s president, Walter Leimgruber, has researched “boundaries and transborder relations, regional development and inequality issues” according to his academic file.
“It [the signing] would associate our country to the global effort to regulate migratory flows, and would bring direct benefits for Swiss migration policy,” the FCM wrote in French.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte similarly said the government will not go ahead until parliament has expressed a view. “The Global Migration Compact is a document that raises issues and questions that many citizens have strong feelings about,” Conte explained.
“Therefore, we consider it right to put the debate in parliament and subject any final decision on the outcome of that debate, as Switzerland has done.
“So the government will not participate in Marrakech, reserving the option to adopt the document, or not, only when parliament has expressed its opinion”.
Conte’s announcement comes a day after Salvini, an anti-migration hardliner and leader of the League, said he was “absolutely against” the Compact.
It is a major reversal for Conte. In a UN speech in September, Conte had defended the Migration Compact. “The migratory phenomena we are facing require a structured, multilevel, and short, medium, and long-term response from the international community as a whole. It is on this basis that we support the Global Compact on migration and refugees,” he said at the time.
The deal was conceived during a UN general assembly in September 2016. Salvini highlighted that it limits national sovereignty and places “economic migrants on the same level as political refugees”.
But Italian daily Corriere della Sera newspaper argued in an editorial that Salvini’s rejection of the UN deal will undermine Conte’s international credibility. “What is the prime minister’s word worth?”
The UN Compact was approved in July by all 193 member nations except the United States, and lays out 23 objectives to erase borders. The number of people on the move worldwide has increased to 250 million, or three percent of the world’s population.
In Australia ministers said on Wednesday that it was not in the national interest to sign the deal. The Compact has become controversial in countries which have elected conservative governments, with Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia, Israel and the United States refusing to sign.
Despite a two-year campaign pushing nations to adopt the agreement, the Vatican announced earlier this month that Pope Francis will not be traveling to Marrakesh, Morocco.
The decision came as a surprise, since the Pope has been vocal in calling on government leaders to adopt the agreement. The Pope previously described the plan as a four-step process of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants.
Present estimates put the number of nations who will adopt the Compact, at around 170 out of the 192 UN member states.
Stephane Jaquemet, ICMC director of Policy and head of the Civil Society Coordinating office for the Global Forum on Migration and Development, told the media that part of the problem was that the discussion on migration was still “toxic”.
Jaquemet expressed hope that Italy, who will not participate in the December 10-11 meeting, may still decide to be present for the formal signing of the compact a week later in New York.