Europe Divided as Governments Oppose Global Compact on Migration


Rabat – Bulgaria announced on Monday, November 12, that it would not sign the compact.

As the country is facing a surging tide of protests and popular uprisings demanding affordable commodity prices and improved living conditions, Bulgaria’s announcement was hardly surprising.

Saying migration worsens Europe’s crises has become the dish du jour in many European circles.

But Bulgaria is hardly a one-off.

Hungary, with a notoriously right-wing and anti-immigration prime minister, Viktor Orban, had already declared its opposition to the Global Compact’s agenda.

Poland and the Czech Republic are also no fans of the compact, which, like Hungary’s Orban, they accuse of blurring the lines between legal and illegal immigration. But while Poland is yet to confirm its position, Czech authorities have already announced that they are considering not signing the final document.

Croatia is also preparing to jump on the bandwagon of Eastern Europe’s reluctance to embrace migration.

A hot-button topic in Europe, migration has become one of the few areas where European leaders have consistently failed to devise a common policy architecture. Clashes between Brussels and member states or among individual member states over national quotas for asylum seekers have become a wide currency in Europe’s troubled political waters.

The latest clashes between Italy and France (over France’s decision to return irregular migrants to Italy) and Italy and England (over taking in migrants onboard the Aquarius rescue ship) also fit the narrative of Europe’s uneasiness with the flow of irregular migrants.
Euro-African partnership

In the meantime, there are some voices calling for a new partnership model between Europe and Africa.

They argue that the exclusive nationalism espoused by European right-leaning parties and the ensuing anti-migrant rhetoric are not the way forward for Europe. To salvage the European project, Europe needs to build bridges, rather than walls, with other parts of the world.

Andre Flahaut, Belgium’s minister of budget and civil service minister, recently told Morocco World News that Europe should engage the non-European world to devise common ways of facing common challenges.

The Belgian politician argued that respect for each other’s humanity should be the founding pillar of a new—and necessary—partnership between Europe and Africa.

Udo Bullman, leader of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, said that, for Europe to come to terms with the rising tide of crises, ignoring Africa would be akin to “political suicide.”

Meanwhile, the not-so encouraging stories about irregular migration—persisting intra-European clashes over national quotas of asylum seekers—suggest that there many be more reticent countries by the time representatives convene in Marrakech, Morocco, to ratify the Global Compact.

What is the Global Compact?

Adopted by the UN General Assembly on July 13, the Global Compact is the equivalent of a UN declaration on migration. The 34-page document calls for an effective multilateralism to solve a global issue as complex as intra and intercontinental human mobility.

It advocates for an “enhanced cooperation on international migration in all its dimensions, have adopted this Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”

In its desire to “make migration work for all,” the compact called on world governments to acknowledge “that no State can address migration alone, and upholds the sovereignty of States and their obligations under international law.”

However, the US, which withdrew from the compact at the outset, said that the document encourages illegal migration and that it blurs the lines between different types of migrants.

Proponents have slammed the criticism, however.

Omar Hilale, Morocco’s permanent representative to the UN, who called the compact’s adoption “a historic day for multilateralism,” said that the document signaled “realism, global vision, and shared responsibility” with regards to the global migration crisis.

“Those countries that decided they are leaving the UN migration compact, had they read it, they would not have done it,” said Jean-Claude Junker, president of the European Commission.