Dec 19, 2018 09:17 UTC
  • Belgian PM resigns in row over UN migration pact

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel offered his resignation on Tuesday amid a political crisis triggered by differences over accepting a UN migration pact.

According to Press TV, in office since 2014, Michel lost the support of the biggest party in his coalition, the Flemish N-VA, last week in protest at his support of a UN pact to foster cooperation over the world’s 21 million refugees.

The 42-year-old prime minister sought backing from left-wing opposition parties so he could hold on to power until parliamentary elections in May.

However, opposition parties in the parliament refused to lend their support to allow his government to keep working until the votes next year, and that caused Michel to announce he would quit.

“I must respect the situation. I therefore take the decision to offer my resignation and will go to the king,” Michel, who has been in politics since winning a provincial councilor post at 18, told parliament.

In a statement on Tuesday night, Belgium’s King Philippe said he will hold consultations before deciding whether to accept the Prime Minister’s resignation.

The king may ask Michel to stay as a caretaker but with limited powers, potentially hampering efforts to rein in the budget and reform social security. He could also speak to other political leaders to try and resolve the issue, or dissolve parliament and trigger an early vote in 40 days.

The resignation came two days after demonstrations against the pact in central Brussels descended into scuffles, with police using tear gas and water cannon to restore order.

The non-binding UN accord, which would promote a common global approach to migrant flows, was initially supported by all four parties in Belgium's coalition.

But the N-VA changed its mind in late October and pulled out of the coalition the day before Michel flew to Morocco to sign the deal.

Belgium’s political crisis comes as Europe heads into election mode next year, with seven EU countries plus the European Parliament all going to the polls.

The bloc has been grappling with an upsurge of migrants since 2015 when more than 1 million people entered Europe, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.

The United States and some other nations, mostly in former communist Eastern Europe, have opposed this year’s UN pact, arguing it could encourage immigration.