Marrakech, where the United Nations is hosting its Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for Migration on December 10-11, has become the new battle ground for a divided European Union.
The conference is the last step before the UN General Assembly formally adopts a resolution on a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The non-binding, voluntary Compact aims to create a common reference point on the issue, which falls under 23 separate objectives, and includes the facilitation of a safe and dignified return and readmission, while also encouraging international cooperation through the creation of the United Nations Migration Network that recognises the fundamental human rights of migrants and pinpoints the basic services that they should be entitled to.
Despite the fact that 191 members of the international body signed off on a draft of the Compact last July, with only the United States refusing to take part in the negotiations, several EU members have since voiced their opposition to the agreement, including those who contributed significantly to the development of the draft. Austria, for example, joined Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Italy in opposing the agreement, saying the Compact did not fully address certain security and sovereignty issues, despite the fact that the Compact explicitly “reaffirms the sovereign right of the States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their own jurisdiction, in conformity with international law.”
Significant questions have also been raised in parliamentary or political debates in Estonia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and even Germany as well as the Netherlands where an explanatory document to justify the government’s supportive position has been issued. Other European governments, including those of Spain, the United Kingdom and France – where opposition parties like Les Républicains and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally are firmly against the agreement – are staunch supporters, including the European Commission.
With only six months to go before the European elections, New Europe fears that this discord is indicative of the challenges that the next European Commission and Council presidents will face in reaching a consensus over the single most divisive issue among the EU’s national governments, and, most importantly, the Continent’s citizens. If we cannot agree on a non-binding document now, a document we helped draft, how will we come up with a common solution come summer 2019?
It is this matter that the lead candidates to succeed Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker should be dealing with; kicking the can down the road will certainly not help.