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Marine Le Pen speaks in Brussels. Photo: Vlaams Belang, Twitter
Brussels

Belgium faces government crisis as result of UN Global Migration Compact

The dispute over the UN Compact on Migration has led to the end of the coalition government in Belgium. Unfazed, Prime Minister Charles Michel plans to continue as part of a minority government and will sign the agreement.

Published: December 10, 2018, 7:17 am

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    Michel on Sunday morning met with the King to announce the reorganisation of the government after several Flemish ministers had walked out, said Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders.

    These resignations were “accepted” by King Philippe at midday, according to a statement, after a meeting at the Royal Palace with Michel. The Ministers who will inherit vacant portfolios include the Interior, Finance, Defense and Migration.

    Former Interior Minister Jan Jambon, a member of the neo-Flemish Alliance [N-VA, Flemish nationalists], confirmed on the RTBF public television that he and the other ministers of his party would resign. “It’s clear, it’s clear,” he said, ending several hours of confusion.

    Michel proposed on Saturday night to replace the Flemish ministers of the N-VA party in the government after an ultimatum launched by the Flemish nationalist party that opposes Belgium’s approval of the UN Compact on Migration.

    If Prime Minister Charles Michel leaves on Sunday to go to Morocco to approve this Compact, he “will take off as Prime Minister of the Swedish coalition [the name given to the current coalition, ed] and will land as Prime Minister of the Marrakech coalition,” warned Bart De Wever, thus warning of a government without the N-VA.

    “I take (…) responsibility tonight for the N-VA leaving the majority” and “I will (…) propose that two secretaries of state replace the three ministers of the N-VA to ensure the continuity and the smooth running of our institutions,” replied Michel.

    The two press conferences by De Wever and Michel follow an extraordinary Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels, destined, unsuccessfully, to find a way out of this political crisis.

    The N-VA is the only one of the four parties in the government coalition which is opposed to the Compact, which must be approved by UN countries on Monday and Tuesday before being ratified on the occasion of a vote in New York on December 19 at the UN General Assembly.

    The crisis, which had been dormant for several weeks, broke out on Tuesday night, when Charles Michel announced his intention to turn to Parliament, because of a lack of unanimity within the government in favor of the Compact.

    It was about the “credibility” of Belgium at the international level, explained the Belgian Prime Minister, who himself had defended this text at the UN forum in late September.

    After two days of heated debate in the Chamber of Deputies, a large right-left majority isolated the N-VA alongside the anti-immigration party Vlaams Belang. The majority emerged on Thursday to vote on a resolution calling on the government to support the Compact.

    The N-VA in late October, in the wake of criticism by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, revisted the debate on open borders suggested by the text of about 40 pages which details 23 objectives including: “to resort to the placement in administrative detention [of migrants] as a last resort” and “to ensure migrants’ access to basic services”.

    Vlaams Belang held a meeting in Brussels on Saturday with Marine Le Pen, leader of the French resistance, and Steve Bannon, former advisor to Donald Trump, to denounce this deal. “The country that will sign this pact, obviously, it will sign a pact with the devil,” said the French leader. She echoed the words of Filip Dewinter, Vlaams Belang deputy.

    Dewinter warned that Flemish cities will become Marrakech, if the UN deal is signed in Morocco.

    Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Switzerland, Australia, Israel and the Dominican Republic have all decided not to surrender their sovereignty in Marrakech. The United States already withdrew from the drafting of the Compact last December .

    The Migration Compact has not only provoked an outcry from the National Rally in France, but also from Yellow Vests who demand a referendum on the issue. On social media there is talk of “treason” and the “abandonment” of France.

    Abroad, members of Pegida in Germany, have also dressed in yellow vests. They demonstrated last Saturday against the same deal from Berlin.

    The Marrakesh deal boldly advocates “the elimination of all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance, against migrants and their families” and strives to “promote independent information objective and of quality, including on the Internet, in particular by making media professionals aware of migration issues”.

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