The Economist : European governments in melt-down over an inoffensive migration compact

Symbolism trumps toothlessness
7 décembre 2018

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Commentary by Francois Crépeau : « Much ado about nothing, really. Not that the GCM is not worth anything. As a conceptual framework, it provides a useful tool to initiate international cooperation on migration issues and channel it over the coming decades. However, it is not in any way mandatory and therefore does not oblige any State to do anything any time soon. Moreover, the GCM does not deny any sovereign power to exclude dangerous foreigners or control borders appropriately. The GCM is therefore not worth the current European “meltdown”, which is caused by politics, not policy. Once again, nationalist populist politicians will use any kind of fodder to revel in myths, buttress stereotypes and stoke fears, presenting themselves as saviors. Other politicians allow them to do this by not taking a principled stand on mobility and diversity. »

It was like watching paint dry, or other people’s children play baseball. Last month Gert Raudsep, an Estonian actor, spent two hours on prime-time television reading out the text of a un migration agreement. Estonia’s government was tottering over whether to pull out of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to give it its full name. So Mr Raudsep was invited to present the source of the discord to worried viewers. Thoughts of weary migrants from Africa and Latin America kept him going, he said. “But my eyes got a bit tired.”

Mr Raudsep’s recital made for dull viewing because the compact is a dull document. Its 23 “objectives” are peppered with vague declarations, platitudes and split differences. Partly in the spirit of other global agreements like the Paris climate deal, it encourages states to co-operate on tricky cross-border matters without forcing them to do anything. It urges governments to treat migrants properly, but also to work together on sending them home when necessary. At best it helps build the trust between “sending” and “receiving” countries that is the foundation of any meaningful international migration policy.

None of this has prevented European governments from melting down over it. In the end Estonia resolved its row ; it will join more than 180 other countries in Marrakesh on December 10th-11th to adopt the compact. But so far at least ten others, including seven from Europe, have followed the lead of Donald Trump and pulled out of a deal that they helped negotiate. The agreement is agitating parliaments, sparking protests and splintering coalitions ; Belgium’s is on the verge of collapse. More withdrawals may follow.

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