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Bulgaria latest EU nation to snub UN migration pact

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Bulgarian border with Turkey, 2016
Bulgarian border with Turkey, 2016 -
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Bulgaria has become the latest country to join the ranks of a growing number of EU nations opposed to a United Nations pact that aims to regulate the treatment of migrants worldwide.

The UN's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) was approved in July by all 193 member states except the US.

But the right-wing governments of Hungry and Austria have since said they will not agree to the final document due to their concerns that the pact will blur the lines between legal an illegal migration.

And Poland, the Czech Republic and now Bulgaria have indicated they may also oppose the deal.

The deputy leader of Sofia's main ruling center-right GERB party, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said on Monday: “The position of the Bulgarian government will be not to join the United Nations’ global pact on migration."

GERB’s anti-migrant junior coalition partner, the United Patriots, is strongly opposed to the UN arrangement, which it says endangers national interests.

The Bulgarian parliament is set to debate the pact on Wednesday.

The country lies on one of the main routes for migrants from the Middle East to western Europe.

Bulgaria says it is already taking steps to stop illegal migration and protect the EU’s external borders.

How has the UN responded?

"It is always regrettable when one disengages, particularly from a process that is very respectful of national specificities", the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for International Migration, Louise Arbour, told Euronews.

She added: "The text of the GCM was agreed upon in July in New York after several months of negotiations conducted in full transparency and according to a process determined by all Member States. The GCM enjoys very broad consensus from all regions. We live in an increasingly inter-connected world. It is difficult to see what the advantages are of “pulling-out” on an issue which by its very nature demands cooperation."

How has the European Commission responded?

The head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, appealed for a united EU front on migration on Monday.

“If one or two or three countries leave the United Nations migration pact, then we as the EU can’t stand up for our own interests,” he told a business summit in Berlin.

What is the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration pact?

The Global Compact for Migration is the first ever negotiated global agreement on a common approach to international migration and all its dimensions.

Countries will debate the pact in December at a two-day summit in Morocco, which will address issues of how to protect people who migrate, how to integrate them into new countries, and how to return them to their home countries.

Arbour said the pact "represents a turning point for international engagement on migration and an important breakthrough in our collective efforts to address the challenges and opportunities of human mobility, grounded in values of responsibility sharing, state sovereignty, non-discrimination, and human rights. It provides a platform for cooperation on migration now and into the future".

The non-legally binding pact has 23 objectives for improving the management of migration at local, national, regional and global levels. Each aim is comprised of a general commitment and a catalogue of possible actions that States can draw from to develop their national and international responses.

Some of those objectives include:

  • "Aims to mitigate the adverse drivers and structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin;

  • Intends to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance;

  • Seeks to address the legitimate concerns of states and communities, while recognizing that societies are undergoing demographic, economic, social and environmental changes at different scales that may have implications for and result from migration;

  • Strives to create conducive conditions that enable all migrants to enrich our societies through their human, economic and social capacities, and thus facilitate their contributions to sustainable development at the local, national, regional and global levels."