Slovenia Joins UN Migration Pact, Yellow Vest Rally Against in Ljubljana

By , 11 Dec 2018, 13:00 PM Politics
Slovenia Joins UN Migration Pact, Yellow Vest Rally Against in Ljubljana refugeesmigrants.un.org

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STA, 10 December 2018 - Slovenia was among more than 150 UN member countries that endorsed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at an inter-governmental conference in Marrakesh on Monday.

Heading Slovenia's delegation at the two-day inter-governmental conference, Interior Ministry State Secretary Sandi Čurin said the document was not ideal, but it was a good compromise designed to enhance international cooperation in all aspects of migration.

"The agreement is a framework that offers guidance, recommendations how to form national policies in the field of migration. The standards therein are largely already part of European policies and legislation," Čurin told the STA over the phone from Morocco.

The agreement was not joined by 40 countries, including Slovenia's neighbours Austria, Hungary and Italy, but Čurin does not see this as a problem for Slovenia, because the agreement's key points have been framed as part of EU legislation.

"Like I was saying, the agreement will in no way affect national legislation, at least not in European countries," he said.

"The agreement has been adopted by acclamation, which is a good basis for international cooperation, something that is more than needed if we want to address migration in a comprehensive and effective way," he said.

In joining the document, Slovenia "explicitly respected the principles such as countries' sovereignty to determine their national policies and legislation related to migration, distinguishing between legal and illegal migration and allowing forced return [of migrants] when voluntary is not possible".

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, speaking on the sidelines of an EU ministerial in Brussels, said he believed "the agreement will mostly bring positive things", but stressed that action would also have to be taken to prevent illegal migrations at the national level in the future.

"Despite much turbulence the Marrakesh global agreement on migrations caused in Europe, I'm calm now," said Cerar, adding the adoption of the agreement put an end to attempts by extreme populists to use non-truths, misinformation and scaremongering to scare people to gain politically.

However, such efforts will resurface again before next year's European elections and later, so it is important for Slovenia to have a positive attitude towards globalisation and to promote human rights and cooperation on migrations at the global level, he said.

Highlighting the need for multilateralism, Cerar reiterated his view that no country, not even the largest one, can handle on its own challenges such as climate change, migrations, digitalisation and security.

He is happy the Slovenian government made the right decision to join the agreement. Although it is not legally binding, the agreement facilitates common efforts to prevent illegal migrations, especially the return of illegal migrants, the foreign minister stressed.

The first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement on a common approach to international migration in all of its dimensions, the agreement has divided European countries as well as the public in Slovenia.

The document sets out 23 objectives for better managing migration in the interests of countries, migrants and the communities hosting them.

In July this year, the agreement was backed by all 193 UN member countries except for the US, which withdrew from the negotiations in December 2017.

The countries which have not joined it argue the document does not distinguish between legal and illegal migrations, but encroaches on national sovereignty in migration policy.

Offering similar arguments, the right-wing opposition parties in Slovenia had urged the government to reject it. They had also said the agreement does not address the causes of migration in the countries of origin.

The Democratic Party (SDS) filed for a referendum on the document, but it is not clear whether such a vote will be admissible. The parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee is to discuss the matter later this week.

Today, a protest against the document was held in front of the parliament building.

Meanwhile, opposition New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin expressed regret that a Slovenian delegation took part in the Marrakesh conference, reiterating opposition to the agreement.

The compact "promotes multiculturalism in a rather aggressive way where it appears as if it should be us who almost had to adapt to those who come here, rather than the other way around", Tonin said.

The agreement includes many recommendations as to how the culture and customs of the immigrants should be respected. "However, the NSi believes that the guests in our house have an obligation to adapt to our customs and to subject to our laws and the constitution," he said.

Tonin added that Slovenia's joining the agreement could be a wrong message to the migrants waiting in the Balkans to continue their journey north.

"A open-door policy is false solidarity which causes even more problems. If countries want to help, they should help them by means of expertise, technology so they can create suitable living conditions for themselves," the NSi said.

The agreement, which is not legally binding, will be endorsed by a resolution at the UN General Assembly on 19 December.

Anti-UN migration pact rally staged in front of parliament

STA, 10 December 2018 - An estimated 200 to 250 people gathered on Monday in front the parliament building in Ljubljana in what appears to be a protest against the UN migration pact adopted in Marrakesh.

The statements of the protesters, some of which have donned yellow vests, indicate they are fearing the migration pact will have serious consequences for Slovenia.

They blocked access to parliament and disrupted traffic on the street in front of the parliament.

Many spoke of high treason, which was echoed by Bernard Brščič, an economist and former state secretary in the PM's office under the 2012/2013 Janez Janša government.

"Senior politicians are also aware of this and have turned tail, letting an insignificant clerk sign the declaration in their place," Brščič said.

While he said that the fear of a referendum will prevent a ratification in parliament that would make the declaration part of Slovenia's legal order, Brščič insisted this is an international treaty that will have legal consequences.

The protesters meanwhile argued they were not only protesting against the migration pact, also listing the failure to get the voice of small people heard, flawed referendum legislation and the need for national sovereignty and the liberation of society.

Before the anti-UN migration pact rally, the same location was used for a small rally by representatives of trade unions, who argued that workers rights were also part of human rights.

Slovenia is among the countries who have backed Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The right-wing opposition parties in Slovenia had urged the government to reject the agreement. They also say that the agreement does not address the causes of migration in the countries of origin.

The Democratic Party (SDS) has filed for a referendum on the document, but it is not clear whether such a vote would be admissible. The parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee is to discuss the matter later this week.

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