The turquoise-blue government follows the footsteps of Trump and Orbán to withdraw from the United Nation Global Agreement of migration pact.


After the United States and Hungary, Austria is also withdrawing from the global migration pact, which diplomats from more than 190 UN member states reached agreement in July. Then the turquoise-blue government agreed after several weeks of wrestling. Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl was to submit a proposal to the Council of Ministers on Wednesday. The Federal Government will not send a representative to the conference in Marrakech, where the agreement is to be officially launched on 10 and 11 December. At the formal vote in a later-planned UN General Assembly, Austria wants to abstain and present its concerns in a so-called vote statement.

“We see some points of the migration pact as very critical, such as the mingling of the search for protection with labor migration,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Austria would therefore not join the pact and thus prevent any possible future binding by customary international law. “This will ensure that Austria decides for itself in the future who will be allowed to immigrate and who will not,” said the ÖVP boss. Similar sounds were suggested by FPÖ vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the driving force behind the no to the migration pact. “Austria must remain sovereign and self-determined on the migration issue,” he explained.

If you study the UN paper more closely, your worries about a loss of sovereignty seem unjustified. In the preamble of the 34 pages is that the agreement is not legally binding. It explicitly affirms the “sovereign right of states to determine their national migration policies themselves”. And between migrants and refugees, it is well distinguished. “Only refugees are entitled to specific international protection,” says the document.

The signatories also agreed to coordinate border management in order to prevent irregular migration and smuggling of people. And they are committed to taking repatriated migrants home. This is not mentioned in the turquoise-blue Council of Ministers. For this purpose, the draft for the declaration of intent before the UN states that the Austrian legal system is a foreign “human right to migration”. However, there is no trace of such a “human right to migration” in the UN agreement. It simply states that human rights are also valid for migrants.

In a pact, the Federal Government rejects many of the objectives of the UN Migration Pact: It does not want migrants to gain better access to the labor market, school resources, health care, basic services, and higher education, make it easier for their families to catch up or start businesses more quickly. Migrants’ internment should be as possible in the future as collective removals or perpetrator profiles based on race, ethnicity or religion. Turquoise Blue fears that the recommendations formulated in the Migration Pact could one day become legally binding if courts invoke that. And that is why Kurz and Strache completely abandon the pact.

Your insight comes late. For Austrian diplomats have helped shape the pact in five rounds of negotiations from February on, on the instructions of Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl nominated by the FPÖ. FPÖ Interior Minister Kickl was involved as well as VP Chancellor Kurz. Austria even negotiated from March for the other EU members. Now it is rising during the EU Presidency – almost against the rest of the world.

On Austria’s side are so far only US President Donald Trump and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Two more Visegrád states could join in: Poland and the Czech Republic, whose leaders are divided. Australia announced skepticism, but the government may not be long. Switzerland agrees with reservations. Almost 190 states have no reservations. Why not? It is a baseless consensus paper, otherwise, it would not have come about. With its no to the migration pact, Austria stands alone on the right-wing side – for domestic political reasons.

Sources: Die Presse