Czech Republic Joins Other EU States in Rejecting UN Migration Pact

November 14, 2018 Updated: November 14, 2018

PRAGUE—The Czech Republic has joined the growing ranks of European Union countries that reject a United Nations pact to regulate the treatment of migration worldwide.

The Czech cabinet voted early on Wednesday, Nov. 14 not to sign the United Nations’ Global Compact for Migration (GCM), a government source told Reuters, in line with indications earlier this month.

“The Czech Republic has long favored the principle of separating legal and illegal migration,” Deputy Prime Minister Richard Brabec told a news conference.

“That is what the Czech Republic’s and other European countries’ suggestions aimed for. The final text does not reflect those proposals.”

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Brabec
Czech Minister for the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Brabec at Hradcany Castle in Prague on Dec. 13, 2017. (Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

“It’s not clearly interpreted and it could be abused. The United States has pulled out, Hungary too, now Austria, and Poland is debating it as well,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Nov. 1, according to the Irish Times.

“I don’t like the fact that it blurs the distinction between legal and illegal migration … I will propose to partners in the government that we should do the same as Austria and Hungary,” he added.

The GCM is scheduled to be signed in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Dec. 11-12, and is the first of its kind to set global standards and guidelines for countries to address migration.

On July 13, with the exception of the United States, all other U.N. member nations—of which there are 192—approved the GCM.

Other Countries Reject Pact

The Czech decision to vote down adoption of the agreement adds to the growing list of European governments that have said they will not sign the migration pact.

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz and vice chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache have both said the country won’t sign the document or send an official representative to Morocco in December.

“There are some points that we view critically and where we fear a danger to our national sovereignty,” Kurz said.

Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in an earlier statement that the agreement is “totally at odds with the country’s security interests.”

“The primary issue for us is the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people,” Szijjártó said in the statement. “According to the government’s position, the U.N. Global Compact for Migration is in conflict with common sense and also with the intent to restore European security.

Bulgaria has also said it plans to drop out of the accord, and its parliament was due to vote on the issue on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

Poland, too, has said it may follow suit.

Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, said that it was “very likely” that Warsaw would not take part as it wanted to prioritize its own migration controls.

“Our sovereign principles on securing our borders and controlling migration flows are absolutely the priority for us,” he said at a joint press conference in Warsaw with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in early November.

Morawiecki said Poland would help reduce migration-related pressure by providing local aid to the countries of origin.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic wrote about her intention to reject the plan: “Be assured I will not sign the ‘Marrakesh Agreement,’” Croatian journalist Velimir Bujanec reported on Oct. 31.

What Does the Pact Say?

The non-binding U.N. pact came about following the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on Sept. 19, 2016, by 193 U.N. member states.

According to the U.N. website, the GCM provides a framework for facilitating safe and orderly migration globally, with an effort to deal with migration “in a holistic and comprehensive manner.”

It also sets out a range of actionable commitments, which could possibly influence legislation and policymaking for member states.

The compact has 23 objectives that seek to boost cooperation among countries to manage migration, and includes such aims as to “strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants” and “combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration.”

The pact has been criticized on grounds that it fails to draw a clear distinction between legal and illegal migration, that it could serve as an inspiration for individuals to engage in irregular migration, and that it purports to give trans-national bodies a say in how any given sovereign country manages its borders.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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