The arch-conservative government Austria, the current chair of the European Council’s rotating presidency, has decided to follow the lead ideological allies the United States and Hungary in backing out of a United Nations migration pact.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, which was expected to be the first intergovernmental negotiated agreement and prepared under the auspices of the UN to comprehensively cover all dimensions of international migration is teetering on the brink of irrelevance after US President Donald J. Trump followed through on his isolationist impulses and backed out of the treaty last year. Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban has followed suit and will not attend the signing ceremony in Morocco set for this December.
Poland’s conservative government is also strongly considering not signing the agreement after the European Commission reprimanded Warsaw for its attacks on the rule-of-law and judicial independence.
Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a young politician who governs in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party said his government “Views some points of the migration pact very critically, such as the mixing up of seeking protection with labour migration.”
Kurz’ comments closely mirror those of the Visegrad Group – Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia – who argue that migrants rescued in the Mediterranean should not automatically be brought into Europe.
Recent migration agenda proposals have largely gone nowhere since Austria took over the rotating presidency as the EU’s leaders have turned their attention to external migration issues that include stepping up cooperation with nations in North Africa.
“We reject any movement in that direction,” Freedom Party head and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache told a news conference after a cabinet meeting in Vienna, as migration is on the top of the agenda of the Austrian government, even though the country has absorbed just a 1 percent of its population in asylum seekers in 2015.