This paper examines the controversies surrounding the adoption of the United Nations Global Compact on Migration (GCM) and their impacts for the European Union. On the one hand, the EU lost the momentum to speak with one voice in the final conference in Marrakech and at the UN General Assembly, as three Member States voted against the GCM and five abstained (one did not attend the conference). On the other hand, 19 EU Member States did sign the GCM. It shows a positive political commitment among these Member States to develop future policies at EU level. This paper offers an overview of the EU’s role in implementing the GCM, and in particular the EU’s commitment to creating “availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration” (objective 5). It argues that while some EU legal migration policies are generally in line with the GCM, some current EU Directives on labour immigration fall short of the standards laid down in the International Labour Organisation instruments and the principle of non-discrimination among different categories of workers (Carrera et al. 2019a).
Moreover, EU irregular migration policies, such as the newly proposed recast EU Return directive, are incompatible with the GCM, for example in relation to objective 13 “using detention as a last resort measure” or objective 7 that also proposes to facilitate access for “non-removable” migrants “to an individual assessment that may lead to regular status”. The Paper concludes by opening up some questions for future assessments of the EU’s role in implementing the GCM. Will EU legislators use the GCM as an opportunity to develop a long-term and comprehensive strategy in the area of migration? Or will they continue searching for consensus among all Member States and subjecting the Union’s policies to ‘intergovernmentalism’ and the lowest common denominator?