Internal documents reveal that Brussels plans to incorporate the controversial UN migration pact into the EU’s legal framework “through the back door”, Austria and Hungary have warned.
Earlier this week, Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl told Brussels the government was opposed to a report by the European Commission’s Legal Service declaring that the UN compact should have legally binding consequences for every EU member state including those which withdrew from the agreement. The compact describes mass migration as “inevitable, necessary and desirable”.
As an increasing number of countries, including a handful of EU member states, began to have doubts about the UN compact in the weeks and months leading up to its signing in December last year, figures including Germany’s Angela Merkel insisted to its opponents that the document was non-binding, while media outlets attacked any suggestion to the contrary as “far-right conspiracy theory”.
Given these repeated assurances from key European figures, Kneissl told local media she was “astonished” to discover the document showing the Commission had apparently reversed its previous stance that the pact was non-binding.
On Monday, the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) minister handed a paper outlining the government’s position on the matter to Austrian EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, which said the country rejected the Legal Service’s conclusions on the basis that “UN General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and you can not declare parts of them binding”.
Dismissing the issue as a “storm in a teacup”, according to the Kronen Zeitung, Hahn said that the position of the European Commission remained that the so-called UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is not legally binding.
The FPÖ’s leader in the European Parliament, Harald Vilimsky, said the developments regarding the EU paper had proven his party was right to push for Austria’s withdrawal from the agreement.
As a governing coalition partner, the populist party acts as “a protective umbrella for Austria and defends the country’s interests,” he said, noting Kneissl had made clear that the nation was “against European Commission plans to bring the UN migration pact in through the back door”.
“We insist on retaining national sovereignty on the issue of asylum and migration… It cannot be the case that there is a ‘right to migration’ [brought into EU law], because that would leave Europe with unsolvable problems,” added Vilimsky.
At a press conference in Brussels Monday, Kneissl’s Hungarian counterpart, Péter Szijjártó, described the Commission report as “tangible proof” that the EU was planning to make the UN compact mandatory across the entire bloc, stating that the Legal Service had formulated “lengthy and devious” legal grounds for making the agreement legally binding.