International law expert Manfred Nowak is outraged by the withdrawal from the UN migration pact. He speaks of a “fatal signal”. He strongly contradicts a central argument of the government.

Austria leaving UN migration pact

The international lawyer Manfred Nowak has condemned Vienna’s exit from the UNO
migration pact as a “fatal signal”. “We are cutting our own flesh here,” Nowak said on Wednesday. “Trump and Orban, is this the society in which we want to be?” He vigorously denied that the pact would create a right to migration.

Legally, the exit has “not many consequences because it (the pact) is not legally binding,” said the University Professor. “Politically, of course, it is a fatal signal,” he said, looking at Austria’s so far “very positive image” in the United Nations. The ÖVP-FPÖ government apparently speculated that their step “negative role model effect” and could follow other states, said Nowak, referring to Poland or the Czech Republic.

As for the points raised by the turquoise-blue federal government, he said that in many cases Austria was already bound by other international treaties. The ban on collective removals is included in the European Convention on Human Rights, social rights derive from the European Social Charter and the UN Social Rights Pact.

“No speech” might also be that the UN pact could give rise to a right to migration, stressed the international lawyer. “Due to the migration pact, there will not be a right to migration, not even in 20 years, which is an argument that has been advanced,” he said in the direction of Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ).

According to Nowak, the customary international law can only arise not only cause legal texts but also the concrete of political practice if the states are appropriate. In this regard, in the field of migration, it is currently going in the opposite direction, pointing to the increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies of many states. Even inside the EU, which was to apply free movement of persons, border controls had been reintroduced.

While US President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban knew that they were setting themselves outside international rules, the current Austrian move would be “shocking for many states,” the former UN Special Representative said. So far, Austria has been seen as “a very positive member state” of the United Nations.” It harms the UN and itself,” Nowak criticized the decision “on domestic grounds”. With a view to appropriate discussions with diplomats, adding the law professor. He actually thought, “that the ÖVP remaining stable enough, will not yield to the pressure of the FPÖ.”

Although the move was a turning point in relations between Austria and the United Nations, it is unlikely to have any “extremely negative effects,” said Nowak. “That’s not important enough for this question.” Moreover, five years ago, Austria had already taken a step with the withdrawal of its Blue Helmets from the Golan, which was “not exactly overblown” by the United Nations. Nevertheless, it had recently been elected by a large majority to the UN Human Rights Council. In principle, Austria must ask whether it makes sense “to put another blow to her in times when the UN is already standing with its back to the wall”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres regrets the withdrawal of Austria from the pact. Guterres added, according to his spokesman, that a large part of civil society and the overwhelming majority of UN member states support the pact that has been established over the last 18 months. The Liberal leader in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, has also criticized. It would undermine “our joint work on a solution to the problem of illegal migration,” wrote Verhofstadt on Facebook. Instead of working together on EU key issues, Austria is focusing on dividing lines.

Sources: Die Presse