Government to consider Saeima vote in relation to UN migration compact

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The Latvian government will take a parliamentary vote in consideration when making the decision on support to the UN Global Compact for Migration, said Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis (Greens and Farmers Union) after an extraordinary government meeting December 3.

The government on December 3 heard the Foreign Ministry’s informative report on the UN migration compact, but will leave the final decision to the parliament.

Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs (Unity) said that the ministers agreed to wait for the parliament’s vote, but political consultations will be held before that.

The minister underscored that the document is not legally binding, and in this respect false information has been spread in the mass media.

“This document states that countries have the rights to define their own migration policies, and it helps to fight human trafficking and contraband,” said Rinkēvičs.

The prime minister said that Latvia will define the matters of concern in relation to the compact. At the same time, there is much positive in the migration compact, said Kučinskis

Debate about whether or not to join most other countries in signing the compact has become a charged issue in recent weeks, in much the same way as happened with the earlier Istanbul Convention.

A group of 46 self-styled members of the "Intelligentsia" released an open letter November 30 voicing opposition to the compact. It featured several well-known public figures including theater director Alvis Hermanis and the head of the Latvian National Opera, Zigmars Liepinš, as well as more obscure figures such as retired academics. Prominent members of the Lutheran and Catholic clergy are also among the signatories.

Signatories claim signing the compact "threatens the sovereignty of the Republic of Latvia in matters of state borders, migration, foreign policy and human rights" and that it is "the first step in turning migration into a human right."

They also voiced concerns that media would be pressured into writing in only a positive manner about migration issues and that the compact therefore could potentially threaten press freedom.

They also complained that the text had not been published in Latvian, though Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs pointed out that the text was available in Latvian.

Šeit ir ANO deklarācijas jeb kompakta par migrāciju teksts latviešu valodā

— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) November 30, 2018

In response the independent public petition site has been used to collect signatures calling on the government to sign the compact. At the time of writing around 500 people had signed.

Rinkēvičs told Latvian Radio the compact was not a legally binding treaty or contract and that it would not impinge upon the sovereign rights of the country at all. His ministry will prepare information to place before Saeima deputies before their vote at a date still to be decided, and the decision of the Saeima will become the decision of government, he said.

A similar process was followed in Estonia where a stormy debate ended last week with the Riigikogu approving Estonia's backing for the UN Compact.  

You can read the text of the document yourself and make up your own mind at the UN website

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