UN migration pact under attack

More and more countries are against the UN migration pact: of the EU member states Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and now Bulgaria too have said they will reject it. And in Estonia too, a debate has emerged that could end in its not signing the accord. Commentators look at what makes the pact so contentious.

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Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Debate fueled by untruths

Jaak Madisson, MP for the Estonian party Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond, spoke out vehemently against the UN migration pact. Eesti Päevaleht does some fact-checking on his claims:

“Madisson quoted the passage in which states undertake to eliminate all forms of discrimination, to condemn racist, prejudiced, and aggressive statements and acts against immigrants, and to use the legal means at their disposal to counter such comments and acts. He claims that the passage makes it the states' duty to censor the media. ... The passage in question is paragraph 17 which deals with the ethical standards of reporting on migration. What it says is that media that propagate xenophobia, racism and intolerance should receive no government funding, but that media freedom should nevertheless be fully respected. Ergo: the pact does not oblige states to use censorship.”

The Times (GB) /

The wrong emphasis

The fact that the UN migration pact doesn't send a clear message that illegal immigration won't be tolerated is a major mistake, columnist Clare Foges writes in The Times:

“When people feel that their borders mean little, hearts are hardened against genuine asylum seekers. … If we want to avoid more swings to the political extremes, we need our borders to be strong. If we are to maintain public tolerance of legal immigration, we must be uncompromising in our policing of illegal immigration. And if we are to assist genuine asylum seekers, we must not encourage young men to cross continents and seas in order to reach the gold-paved streets of the West.”

Die Welt (DE) /

A disastrous approach

Die Welt laments that the migration pact is being pushed through with almost no public debate:

“This is a disastrous approach - especially with this particular issue and in the current climate. There were plenty of good reasons for the German Bundestag to discuss the pact in depth. And we members of the press have hardly surpassed ourselves by avoiding the subject. Considering how sensitive the topic of immigration is nowadays, this kind of thing cannot afford to happen. We need a broad-based debate immediately.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Media must counter campaign of lies

The debate about the migration pact shows how significant the role of independent media has become, comments Der Standard:

“False claims like 'Borders are being abolished' or 'millions of immigrants' from Africa are on their way are being spread on far-right conspiracy websites and in media with close ties to the FPÖ and AfD. Those who 'like' pro-FPÖ and right-wing populist sites have not been informed that the migration pact is merely a declaration of intent, and that contrary to what the government says, its rejection won't 'save Austria's sovereignty'. And those who don't read such media have learned this only at a relatively late stage. The FPÖ, as the ruling party, is also expertly exploiting the interaction between social media, the tabloids and its own channels in order to spread the alleged 'truths that the mainstream media are withholding'.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Switzerland should help find solutions

In Switzerland too, a debate about whether or not the migration pact should be signed is under way. The Tages-Anzeiger explains why it is in favour of signing the accord:

“The pact has its faults but at the end of the day there's no reason not to sign it. By remaining on the sidelines Switzerland would be aligning itself with countries like the US, Hungary or Austria, where Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is acting under pressure from his right-wing populist coalition partner the FPÖ. It is not naive to avoid being drawn into the negative spiral of a migration-policy driven race to the bottom and instead work with others to find a solution to a global problem. Switzerland is not just a country which takes a critical approach to international agreements, but above all a country where Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Populists live up to their name

With their anti-migration policies, the governments in Austria and other European countries are only following through on their election promises, the Irish Examiner comments:

“Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, perceives the UN’s compact on immigration as a threat to his country’s national sovereignty. What tends to be ignored in the chatter about the zeitgeist is that these populist governments and radical parties are, in a word, popular; the clue is on the tin. Like it or not, they have been elected in free and fair ballots. Mr Kurz is delivering the programme he offered voters.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A pact by aloof elites

Large sections of the electorate no longer regard migration as a natural phenomenon, and therefore the UN migration pact is just another indication of how far the elites are removed from the rest of the population, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes:

“The control or outright rejection of migration, the distinctions being drawn between different types of migration are causes that are supported by powerful sections of the electorate. These issues have helped political parties like the AfD in Germany, the FPÖ in Austria, the SVP in Switzerland or President Trump in the US to get into power. It is the disastrously ignorant spirit behind the migration pact that makes it politically explosive. The fact that the authors are unaware of this only confirms the much used argument about the elites being cut off from society - and strengthens these same political protest movements.”

Tageblatt (LU) /

Migration can only be tackled in a joint effort

As far as Tageblatt is concerned the migration pact is simply an acknowledgement of the situation:

“Yes, migration exists, it always has and it always will - so what can we do (knowing full well that migration issues can only be solved in a joint effort and not by a single state) so that these people enjoy minimal protection? ... The worst affected are the African and Asian countries, which accordingly need the pact most. In this sense it is also an acknowledgement of the burden that rests on these states. The refusal to sign this pact is therefore also a message to these countries: your problems are not our problem!”

Kurier (AT) /

Globalisation means global mobility

The Austrian government is avoiding all discussion about migration and hasn't answered the question of what legal migration actually means in the globalised world, Kurier complains:

“The government's decision to reject the global UN migration pact is based neither on fact nor on a clever policy but on resentment. How can you talk about globalisation in the economy and science yet not take the global migration of people from all occupations and classes into account? History has shown that the world has always benefited from migration. Unfortunately the government has not yet presented a concept for legal migration. That would be popular.”

Polityka (PL) /

Valium for voters who fear migration

Vienna is deliberately putting migration back on the table, suggests Polityka:

“ The new stances taken by Budapest and Warsaw, and Vienna's resistance, can mostly be attributed to the election calendar. These decisions are conveniently timed, coming just as the campaigns for the European Parliamentary elections, which take place at the end of May in all EU member countries, get under way. The withdrawal from the agreement enables the heads of government to put the topic of migration back at the centre of public debate and to reassure voters who oppose migration.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Holy alliance of closed doors

Italy won't have to go it alone after all, sniffs Stefano Stefanini, La Stampa's Brussels correspondent:

“Italy under Lega and M5S may well have a budget dispute with Brussels, but they will find common political ground elsewhere: at the cost of migrants, who have now become the glue holding together a new 'holy alliance,' with Vienna at its centre. ... The group of EU countries on the Danube has decided that migrants will not be allowed to pass through, and that those who have already crossed over can be booted out again with a few well-placed kicks to the rear. ... Italy is now eagerly joining this coalition of 'well-meaning' countries. Countries that have always shirked their share of responsibility for immigration by shifting it to the countries of first arrival.”