The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) said it regretted the fact that not all Member States of the European Union had approved the Global Compact for Migration, which, in its view, presented an excellent opportunity to make progress on establishing a single EU voice on migration at global level.
In an own-initiative opinion adopted with an overwhelming majority at its plenary session on 25 September, the EESC – the EU body representing Europe's employers' organisations, trade unions and civil society organisations – stressed that the Compact was a non-binding agreement and as such did not create any new obligations for EU Member States.
Instead, its content fully builds on the EU's core values such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human and minority rights, as stipulated in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU).
The EESC is of the view that all EU countries should ratify the Compact," said the rapporteur for the opinion José Antonio Moreno Díaz. The Compact is not revolutionary or radical in itself, but offers a multilateral framework for cooperation between countries of origin, transit and reception".
The Global Compact for Migration, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, was formally adopted almost a year ago in Marrakesh and billed as the first international document on managing migration. The signatories will remain in charge of their own migration policy but will commit to improving global cooperation on migration.
Despite its non-binding nature, the Compact continues to stir up controversy. Although it met with little opposition in the UN's General Assembly, a handful of countries have so far failed to formally adopt it, leaving the number of signatories at 164 worldwide.A few EU countries also refused to approve the agreement.
The Committee said in the opinion that it noted the lack of progress made by the EU on delivering a common migration policy, which undermined solidarity between Member States and affected the fulfilment of their responsibilities under international law.
According to the EESC, taking stock of what has been achieved since 2015 can be frustrating, as the only progress made consists of cracking down on irregular migration, pursuing trafficking networks and sealing borders.
However, the EESC said that it recognised efforts made by EU citizens, social partners and civil society organisations who, through their commitment and activities, had been effectively implementing EU values and thus the objectives of the Compact as well.
It especially praised the work of individuals and organisations who help and save lives, sometimes defying threats and criminal proceedings by certain EU governments.
In the opinion, as well as checking if the content of the Compact conformed to EU policy and legislation, the EESC aimed to enhance the institutional debate within the EU. The EESC has traditionally been the frontrunner among the European institutions in advocating safe, orderly and regular migration, regardless of whether people were migrating for economic reasons or for reasons of international protection. It has always put forward the idea of considering migration as a normal occurrence throughout history.
In its analysis of the 23 objectives, the EESC highlighted the importance of the social inclusion of migrants in European societies, as well as the recognition of migrants' experience, diplomas and skills in order to facilitate labour market inclusion.
It also stressed the need to develop a new, more positive narrative about migration, going against the hate speech and false information currently promoted by far-right political forces around Europe, which threatens to divide Europe and hinder the search for an appropriate response to the migration challenge.
We need to open up a fact-based debate and discuss how the different attitudes on migration from the various EU Member States can be reconciled. The Compact can be a good starting point for such a debate, concluded Mr Moreno Díaz.