Babiš signals Czech intention to quit UN migration agreement

Andrej Babiš, photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says he will suggest to government that the Czech Republic doesn’t sign the UN’s Global Compact for Migration, citing ambiguities in its interpretation. The decision mirrors those concluded by the Czech Republic’s central European neighbours Austria and Hungary who have already announced they will not sign the agreement.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: Filip Jandourek / Czech Radio
Since the unanimous adoption of the non-binding New York declaration for refugees and migrants by the UN general assembly in 2016, the United Nations has been developing an holistic migration strategy officially referred to as the Global Compact for Migration.

Apart from the United States, which declared its withdrawal in 2017, Hungary and Austria have both recently announced they will not be signing the declaration either. Now it seems the Czech Republic is set to do the same.

Speaking in Parliament during Thursday’s prime minister’s questions, Andrej Babiš shared his thoughts on the UN’s migration plan.

“No one from outside is going to decide about who can live and work in our country. That is solely up to our businesses, institutions and government. Nothing has changed in our policy of not accepting illegal migrants. I don’t like this pact. It lacks a clear definition and that could be abused.”

Not all share this opinion however. Mikuláš Peksa from the opposition Pirate Party says this would be a missed opportunity.

“We are trying to get these migration floods under control. That means we need a global compact on migration which would make this possible. To stick ones head in the sand now is absurd.”

Mr. Peksa is not alone in his criticism. Professor Petr Kratochvíl of Prague’s Institute of International Relations believes the compact is being abused by Mr. Babiš to pamper his Czech voter base.

“The problem is that the Global Compact is another legal document that has become the victim of politicking in our region. Not only it the Czech Republic, but also in Austria, Hungary and Poland. The problem is of course not the content of the document. I doubt the prime minister has even read it. It is simply just another cheap way of increasing his popularity at the expense of migrants, because just the title of the document is enough.”

Petr Kratochvíl,  photo: archive of Institute of International Relations
Asked about what impact the compact’s refusal would have on the Czech Republic, professor Kratochvíl had this to say.

“It will not have much of an impact, because this is a legal document that is not binding in the sense of introducing new rights for migrants. It does however send a message about where the Czech Republic globally speaking belongs. When you look at the countries which are discussing withdrawal from the compact, these are governments which do not have the best track record of treating migrants fairly, so it will again create a rift between those central European states that oppose migration and the western European mainstream.”