Austria takes issue with UN migration pact

Austria expressed reservations this week about a United Nations migration pact that is set to be adopted in December but has come under fire from EU members hostile to immigration, such as Hungary and Poland.

Austria takes issue with UN migration pact
Heinz-Christian Strache (left), picture here with Italy's deputy PM Matteo Salvini, said parts of the UN pact were "diametrically opposed" to Austria's policy's. Photo: AFP

“There are a couple of points diametrically opposed to our government programme,” said Austria's Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) that currently shares power with the centre-right People's Party (ÖVP).

The Global Compact for Migration, whose final text was backed by UN member states in July after 18 months of negotiations, pledges to boost cooperation in addressing the world's growing flows of migrants.

Without detailing exactly which aspects of the document Vienna took issue with, Strache insisted that migration was an area over which every country should be able to decide “with full autonomy and sovereignty.” 

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, of the centre-right ÖVP, said there were aspects of the pact that “placed an obligation on the host countries that we regard highly critically.” 

He did not specify whether Austria intends to vote against the non-binding pact, the first international document on managing migration.

It is set to be adopted during a conference in Morocco on December 10-11. 

Hungary's anti-immigration prime minister Viktor Orban said in July that Budapest would boycott the pact because it was “dangerous for the world and Hungary” and would “inspire millions to set out on the road”.

In Warsaw on Tuesday, the Polish interior ministry said it would vote against the pact as it risked “encouraging illegal migration.” 

In December, the United States said it was quitting negotiations on the pact because of provisions “inconsistent with US immigration and refugee policies”. 

Vienna said Austria and Switzerland were in the process of drawing up a joint position on the matter.

A number of opposition politicians in Austria have condemned a stance that they say aligns Vienna with the “reactionary states in the east.” 

The UN pact lays out 23 objectives to open up legal migration and better manage flows of people as the number on the move worldwide has increased to 250 million, or three percent of the world's population. 


Austria Chancellor facing investigation over ‘false statement’ to MPs

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced Wednesday that prosecutors had started investigating him after the opposition accused him of making false statements to a parliamentary committee on corruption.

Austria Chancellor facing investigation over 'false statement' to MPs
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Image: Joe Klamar/AFP

“I wish to inform you that… prosecutors have opened an investigation against the head of my office,” Bernhard Bonelli, “and against me”, Kurz told reporters before a cabinet meeting.

Kurz denied any wrongdoing, saying: “I always answered all (the committee’s) questions truthfully.”

He said the investigation would have no impact on his work and that he would not resign.

The investigation comes after the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe) and NEOS parties accused Kurz of not telling truth in front of the committee of MPs, who are investigating the fallout from the so-called “Ibizagate” scandal that brought down Kurz’s previous government in 2019.

READ MORE: Alleged mastermind in Austria’s ‘Ibiza-gate’ video arrested in Berlin

Kurz’s then vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) had to resign after a video emerged showing him in a luxury villa in Ibiza offering political favours to a woman he thought was a Russian oligarch’s niece, in exchange for financial support.

The parliamentary committee looking into the scandal has since broadened its focus to include other accusations of wrongdoing, including by politicians from Kurz’s People’s Party (OeVP).

The latest investigation comes as the OeVP’s party financing and other practices have increasingly come under the spotlight.

In February OeVP Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel’s home was raided as part of a separate probe into possible party financing offences.