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“The vast majority supports the migration pact” 

10.12.2018 - Interview

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas talks to the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung” about the UN migration pact.

You have said that fake news in social networks shaped the debate on the UN migration pact. Following the US, many other countries no longer want this declaration of intent. Even Switzerland, which chaired the talks, has put the brakes on. Is the pact dead on arrival or can your attempts to resuscitate it succeed?

There is no need to resuscitate it. Over 180 countries are on board and less than 15 countries have opted out. These numbers show that the vast majority supports the pact. But yes, we need to adjust to the fact that disinformation is increasingly and very deliberately being used in political debates. Such disinformation is disseminated very widely via social networks. The campaign against the migration pact was a mere foretaste of what we can expect to see during the European elections, for example. I am afraid that this election campaign will become the next major arena for attempts to manipulate people. All of us – politicians, the media and civil society – need to arm ourselves against this. One thing in particular helps to combat targeted disinformation campaigns – we need to publish the facts in order to distinguish them clearly from lies and fake news.

But the comments about the unfortunate choice of wording are not unfounded and nor is the contradiction that German politicians underline the fact that the pact is not binding but simultaneously expect other countries to adhere to it.

If what you say were true, then the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would never have come to pass. This Declaration is now 70 years old. It is a great achievement of humankind and similar to the migration pact in terms of its legal nature. If you look at it, you will see that most of its individual points have long since applied in Germany. Unfortunately, that is not the case all over the world. If everyone were as active and committed as we are as regards addressing the root causes of migration, repatriation and human smuggling, there would be less migration in the world – and that is our goal. It is a great achievement that so many countries have agreed to the goals in the pact. The aim is to reduce migration. If people have better prospects in their home country, they will be less likely to set off to seek their fortune somewhere else in the world.

When you say that the pact has been largely met in Germany, where is that not the case and how do you envisage implementing it?

It is my firm belief that we do not need new legislation in Germany to implement the pact. However, we do want to raise the issue of which political priorities we want to set as regards migration. These include tackling the root causes of migration and boosting the international fight against illegal human smuggling. Furthermore, we want to make repatriation easier and more common. It will help if countries such as Morocco state their willingness to do so in the pact. In this way, we can call on them to meet their obligations – not legally, but politically.

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