MEP slams rabble rousing on UN compact, Reform leader more conciliatory

Urmas Paet MEP (Reform).
Urmas Paet MEP (Reform). Source: ERR

Reaction to controversy surrounding Estonia's participation in the UN Global Compact on Migration continues, with Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas agreeing with both the governmental line and that of critics of the government's handling of the case. Whilst he agreed the government could have done better, Urmas Paet MEP, also of Reform, took an unequivocal stance on what he sees as gross irresponsibility from some of those opposing the compact.

Monday saw President Kersti Kaljulaid saying that she would not attend the meeting formalising the UN compact, on 10-11 December in Marrakesh, Morocco, without government unanimity on it.

The compact does not require signing; national leaders attending the Marrakesh meeting are likely to simply make speeches in favour of it. Meanwhile US leader Donald Trump stated some time ago he will not attend, with leaders of some European countries including Austria and Poland following suit.

Kaja Kallas joins dots

Kaja Kallas managed to join the dots between criticisms stated by party co-member Marko Mihkelson, that the government had not kept either the Riigikogu or the public sufficiently informed on the agreement's progress, and the stance of foreign minister Sven Mikser that since the compact was non-binding, there was no need for governmental endorsement.

"If experts in their fields find that this is an agreement that followed general principles of humanity, that this is an agreement that has no binding consequences and directly says that the state has the right to decide over its migration policy, I think that we should maintain the same line as our general allies in the European Union and NATO," Ms Kallas told the Baltic News Service on Monday.

Kaja Kallas on ERR's Vikerraadio recently. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"The stance of the Reform Party is it is customary for Estonia to discuss these topics publicly, and to discuss them with parliament before giving consent. We believe it is vital the parliamentary debate be carried out at least in the committee," she added.

Urmas Paet likens electioneering to fairy tale

Meanwhile MEP and former foreign minister Urmas Paet said that fears around the compact had been whipped up by opponents and that engaging in such activity would eventually lead to a ''boy who cried wolf'' backlash.

Not only had the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) obtained over 1,000 signatures opposing the compact in less than a day, but Isamaa/Pro Patria also voiced its opposition.

The compact addresses the plight of some 250 million people worldwide it says are migrants, over 3% of the world's population, and follows a period where the migration issue had lain relatively dormant in Estonia after the European migrant crisis of 2016.

''Should society at some point actually need to pull itself together against a real threat, it by then may have become so numb to false alarms and panics that it cannot recognise a real threat and take it seriously," Mr Paet said, referring to the fairy tale in which a boy repeatedly makes false alarms about the presence of a wolf, only to be ignored by his elders and thus eaten when one actually materialises.

President's role questioned

Mr Paet also pointed out the electioneering aspect of the sensationalising of the issue.

"This will bring the government to a deadlock as the head of one coalition party [Pro Patria chair Helir-Valdor Seeder] suddenly announces that he does not support it and the prime minister remains simply quiet, this will also confuse the president and cause anxiety and panic for several others,'' said Mr Paet.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas is currently in Germany.

President Kaljulaid herself had faced questions from justice minister Urmas Reinsalu over the extent of her powers over the executive, with Mr Mihkelson suggesting the justice chancellor get involved.

Very real issue

''But as this [ie migration] is a very serious problem in the world, attention must be drawn to it and a high-level conference must be held where representatives of the countries discuss how they see this issue," Mr Paet continued, pointing out that the text of the agreement has been available on the UN's website for several months, as well as in summary on the foreign ministry's site, in Estonian. Moreover the agreement was drawn up with Estonia's participation.

"Neither domestic nor foreign policy can be carried out in such an irresponsible manner. The unjustified fears of people must be mitigated, not ignited further. And it is important to talk about content and facts, not simply give a boost to emotions as this may beneficial to someone in the elections,'' he said.

"The reasons for migration exist in real life and must be dealt with in real life. For example, by preventing wars and reducing poverty. A migration policy is for every state to draw up on their own. This is how it was and will be after the UN migration conference in December. This UN document does not pose a threat to the sovereignty of Estonia or anyone else," he continued.

Government still has some culpbability

Nonetheless Mr Paet broadly agreed with Mr Mihkelson and Ms Kallas that the government had made mistakes.

"[it] could have sensed that the word 'migration' is sensitive and may cause a furore, either way. Hence it would have been sensible pre-emptively to draw the attention of both parliament and the public to it and adequately explain what it is about. Unfortunately, this was not done and the matters were allowed to take on a life of their own," he continued.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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