Belgian PM wins backing for UN migration pact

Brussels (AFP) –


Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel won the support of parliament to sign a UN accord on migration on Wednesday, amid a row that threatens to tear apart his coalition.

The way is now apparently clear for Michel to head to a UN conference in Marrakesh next week to endorse the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

But if he does so, his coalition government could lose the backing of the Flemish nationalist N-VA party, and thus its parliamentary majority.

The non-binding UN accord, which would promote a common global approach to migrant flows, has become a cause celebre for European anti-immigration parties.

Michel, a liberal, has been unable to unite his government behind the accord, and so turned to parliament, where the foreign affairs committee has now backed it.

"Parliament is the heart of democracy in our country. Its message is very important," the premier told RTL radio.

But N-VA members did not back the vote and Michel said he would endorse the text in Marrakesh on behalf of Belgium's parliament and not of his divided government.

And N-VA parliamentary group leader Peter De Roover played down speculation the government would fall saying that there remains much noon-immigration work to finish.

The draft UN pact lays down 23 objectives to open up legal migration and better manage a global flow of 250 million people, three percent of the world population.

The United States dropped out of talks on the pact last year and countries such as Hungary, Austria, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Australia have rejected it.