BERLIN – The Austrian government said Wednesday that it won't sign a global compact to promote safe and orderly migration, citing concerns about national sovereignty as it joined neighboring Hungary in shunning the agreement.
Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz took office last December in a coalition with the nationalist, anti-migration Freedom Party. Austria currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, and Kurz has made curbing unregulated migration a priority.
The Global Compact for Safety, Orderly and Regular Migration, which isn't legally binding, was finalized under U.N. auspices in July. It is due to be formally approved at a meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, from Dec. 11-12.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Kurz and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said Austria won't sign the document or send an official representative to Marrakech. They cited, among other things, fears about a possible watering-down of the distinction between legal and illegal migration.
"There are some points that we view critically and where we fear a danger to our national sovereignty," Kurz said.
"Some of the contents go diametrically against our position," added Strache, the Freedom Party's leader.
"Migration is not and cannot become a human right," Strache said. "It cannot be that someone receives a right to migration because of the climate or poverty."
In September 2016, all 193 U.N. member states, including the United States under President Barack Obama, adopted a declaration saying no country can manage international migration on its own and agreeing to launch a process leading to the adoption of a global compact in 2018.
But last December, the United States said it was ending its participation in negotiations on the compact, stating that numerous provisions were "inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies" under President Donald Trump.
In July, Hungary said it would withdraw from the process.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said then that the pact was contrary to Hungary's interests because while it had some positive aims, like fighting human trafficking, overall it considered migration an unstoppable and positive phenomenon worthy of support.
The compact has 23 objectives that seek to boost cooperation to manage migration and numerous actions ranging from technical issues like the portability of earnings by migrant workers to reducing the detention of migrants.