German government backs controversial UN migration pact

It has sparked a split of opinions among politicians in Germany. But on Thursday the Bundestag voted in favour of the controversial UN migration pact.

German government backs controversial UN migration pact
MPs including Chancellor Angela Merkel voting in the Bundestag on Thursday. Photo: DPA

In the ballot 372 MPs voted in favour of signing the pact, 153 voted no and 141 abstained following a debate on the pact. 

As part of the vote, a motion was also raised which states that the pact has no “law-altering or legislative effect” so that Germany can decide its migration policy itself. However, as the pact is legally non-binding, countries who sign it are under no obligation to take in extra migrants or refugees.

The United Nation's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration marks the first time the world organization has agreed on a list of global objectives to tackle the challenges involved in migration for individual migrants, and at the same time to maximize benefits for the countries taking in immigrants.

The agreement is being formed to deal with the huge number of people from across the world who are leaving their countries to seek refuge elsewhere because of conflict, poverty or other reasons. Germany played a key role in the height of the refugee and migration crisis in 2015, which has resulted in a polarization of opinions across the country.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and speakers from the centre-right Union, centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, Left and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) defended the pact against criticism from politicians, including those within the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Maas (SPD) said the pact aimed to reduce migration and its negative effects.

“That is why we in Germany also benefit from the fact that it will be adopted. This pact is also in Germany's interest,” he said.

National sovereign rights would “neither be restricted nor transferred anywhere,” he added.

SEE ALSO: Merkel defends UN migration pact amid party split on issue 

In a tweet later Maas added that the pact was a response by the international community and that there could be “no national solution”.

“Migration is as old as humanity, global in nature and affects us all. Managing and regulating it is in our interest,” he added.

An invitation for migration

AfD MEP Gottfried Curio sharply attacked the government. The pact was “nothing other than an irresponsible invitation to the worldwide migration of people to Germany without an upper limit,” he said.

The AfD had previously called the pact a “Trojan horse” that promotes the “unrestricted and chaotic” expansion of migration.

Meanwhile, FDP deputy faction leader Stephan Thomae said that the pact might encourage other countries to take more responsibility, therefore easing the burden on Germany.

“If others also commit themselves to it, this will reduce the migratory pressure on Germany,” he said. 

Petra Pau from the Left party (Linke) said that no state would lose its sovereignty, no border would be abolished. And that anyone who claims otherwise confuses members of the public, she said.

SEE ALSO: Survey: 40 percent of Germans fear migration pact will result in more asylum claims

Agnieszka Brugger of the Greens emphasized the protection of human rights. It was “sad to have to stress that human rights apply to all people”, she said.

Andrea Lindholz (CSU), said migration remains a global phenomenon that can only be solved globally and not nationally.

Bundestag backs the pact

In the adopted resolution, the Bundestag welcomed the fact that the international community had drawn up the pact, which was intended to help regulate, manage and limit migration more effectively.

However, the stipulation is that Germany is still in charge of laws and enforcement as well as migration policies.

The UN migration pact is to be adopted at a meeting in Morocco on December 10th and 11th.

The legally non-binding agreement is intended to help organize migration more effectively. However, not every country supports it. Among others, the U.S., Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Slovakia have spoken out against the pact.

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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.