President will not go to UN meeting in Marrakesh without unanimity in govt

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President Kersti Kaljulaid has said that she will not go to the United Nations meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco next month unless the government achieves unanimity on the UN Global Compact on migration.

„As we have a single foreign policy in Estonia, the position of the government has to be made clear, first and foremost when it comes to the legal implications of the accord. When that is clear, we can move forward," Kaljulaid told public broadcaster ERR. "As long as we have no consensus and the position of the government is not known, the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee will not support the accord.“

Kaljulaid told ERR that considering the situation as it is now, she cannot fly to Marrakesh in December. She also said that there is no plan for the accord to be signed at the UN meeting. 

„State leaders will declare positions and make speeches,“ the president told ERR.

She added that the Office of the President had a plan in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning the Marrakesh meeting.

„It was based on the presumption that there is consensus in the government and the subject has been discussed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now, it has been revealed that there is no consensus in the government. So, we are in a phase now where this topic has to be put on the table again. Estonia does not have several foreign policies, we are making it all together: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government, and I as the president representing the foreign policy of Estonia,“ Kaljulaid told ERR.

The Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee announced on Friday that it wishes to get information from Foreign Minister Sven Mikser on the UN Global Compact on migration and on what the argumentation of Estonia in approving the accord is based.

Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, criticized the exclusion of the parliament from the discussion on the United Nations migration pact.

„It is odd that the government has virtually bypassed the parliament and has taken the initiative not to disclose the details of such an important accord,“ Mihkelson was quoted by the spokespeople of the Riigikogu as saying.

„Migration has shaken the whole of Europe and thus it is extremely important to consider the topic in depth. Only after having heard the arguments and the debate will it be possible to decide if Estonia is to join the pact or not,“ Mihkelson, a member of the opposition Reform Party, said. „Estonia is a parliamentary state and this debate needs to be had, even if it comes at the very last minute,“ he added. 

Mihkelson has proposed that Foreign Minister Sven Mikser on Monday give an overview to the foreign affairs committee of Estonia's positions regarding the UN framework of global migration and refugees. Professor of international law Lauri Mälksoo will give the committee his expert opinion.

In response to criticism by the chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, Foreign Minister Sven Mikser said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has introduced the UN migration pact to the Riigikogu standing committee. 

„If the chairman of the foreign affairs committee feels that he has been left out of the discussion so far, it is likely due to the reason that the discussion, which took place in the committee as early as on March 13, was not led by him but by deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, who, by the way, as is apparent from the minutes, commended the ministry for sharing the information," Mikser wrote on Facebook.

Mikser stressed that the framework was a non-binding document.

Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu said on social media on Saturday that the Estonian government has not endorsed the UN migration compact in any fashion nor has made a separate decision to vest the president with powers related to the accord.

„On March 15 this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted to the government for approval the negotiating positions of Estonia concerning the UN Global Compact on Migration and Refugees. These positions were necessary to formulate a common EU position with regard to these documents in the EU General Affairs Council,“ Reinsalu said. "True, this is not an international agreement as it would never have been possible to have a document as radical and large-scale as this endorsed by a large number of states using the procedures established for an agreement.“

The fundamental question, according to the minister, is whether or not the declaration to be endorsed in Marrakesh will morph in subsequent interpretation into a presumed practice which countries are obliged to observe and which is acknowledged by international courts and institutions.

The European Court of Human Rights, for instance, has established a very broad scope of interpretation for the valid UN convention on the status of refugees, Reinsalu said.