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Central European countries lead the charge against U.N. migration pact

After Hungary and Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic announced they would most likely withdraw from a U.N. migration pact before it’s even signed.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was agreed in July by all 193 U.N. member states, except for the United States, and is due to be signed next month in Marrakesh, Morocco. The international treaty, non-binding and respectful of each individual country’s own migration rules and policy, aims to establish a global framework of norms to protect migrants, favour their integration or ease their return to their home country.

A growing number of anti-immigration governments, however, have already started rejecting it ahead of the signing ceremony. After branding the accord as “making it a human right to find a new place around the globe”, Hungary announced last June it would pull out, and Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz also recently told Vienna would not be taking part to the United Nations global compact. It also remains unclear where Croatia stands on the issue.

Talking on Friday during a joint press conference in Warsaw with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that “it is very likely that, like Austria, the Czech Republic and the United States, we will not be part of the U.N. Global Compact”. Despite using an anti-immigration rhetoric as a rallying cry for its voters base, ruling party PiS has been overseeing the biggest immigration wave in the country’s modern history, as Notes From Poland highlighted.

The day before, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis already expressed strong reserves about the pact and suggested the country will pull out from the agreement. “It’s not clearly interpreted and it could be abused. The United States has pulled out, Hungary too, now Austria and Poland are debating it as well”, he told lawmakers in Prague. “I don’t like the fact that it blurs the distinction between legal and illegal migration”. Yesterday, he took to Twitter and claimed that the Global Compact posed a threat to the Czech Republic’s “security and sovereignty”.

Many experts and commentators denounce the hypocrisy of the recent withdrawals, coming from leaders who criticize a non-binding international accord for purely political and domestic reasons. Petr Kratochvil from Prague’s Institute of International Relations argued that “the problem is that the Global Compact is another legal document that has become the victim of politicking in our region. Not only in the Czech Republic, but also in Austria, Hungary and Poland. The problem is of course not the content of the document. I doubt the Prime minister has even read it. It is simply just another cheap way of increasing his popularity at the expense of migrants”. Although the impact of Central European countries’ rejection of the international accord will be minimal, “it will again create a rift between those Central European states that oppose migration and the Western European mainstream”.

Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland are already facing judicial action from Brussels for refusing to accept refugees under the EU’s relocation scheme.

Slovakia remains the only Visegrad Group member that hasn’t announced it would pull our from the treaty. On Monday, opposition movement “We Are Family” urged the government not to sign the U.N. Global Compact, arguing that the accord “encroaches on the integrity of sovereign states” and that “we have a country in such misery, and we’re going to discuss the reception of Syrian children”. Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak called for a constructive discussion on the issue, criticized the spread of misinformation and pointed out that the document didn’t coerce any country to accept a given number of migrants. Citing the many Slovak migrants living abroad, including in neighbouring Czech Republic, he argued that “I believe we don’t want to see Slovak citizens living abroad hurt by anyone or stripped of their civil, social and economic rights simply because of their place of birth”.

To know more about the U.N Global Compact on Migration, you can visit the International Organization for Migration’s website.

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