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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Polish, Baltic PMs denounce 'hybrid attack' by Belarus amid border crisis

23.08.2021 13:15
An ongoing migration crisis on the European Union's border with Belarus "has been planned and systemically organized by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko," the prime ministers of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have said in a joint statement. 
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

The four leaders said Belarus was "using immigrants to destabilize neighbouring countries," a tactic that they said "constitutes a clear breach of international law and qualifies as a hybrid attack" against Latvia, Lithuania and Poland "and thus against the entire European Union."

"We, the Prime Ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, express our grave concern regarding the situation on the borders of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland with Belarus," Poland's Mateusz Morawiecki, Lithuania's Ingrida Šimonytė, Latvia's Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš, and Estonia's Kaja Kallas said in their statement.

"It is clear to us that the ongoing crisis has been planned and systemically organized by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko," they added.

Time to 'rethink our approach' toward border protection

The four leaders also said that the latest border crisis needed to be used in the EU "to rethink our approach towards the protection of our borders."

"We firmly believe that the protection of the European Union's external border is not just the duty of individual member states but also the common responsibility of the EU," they said. "Hence, proper political attention should be paid to it on the EU level and sufficient funding allocated."

The statement also said that "the issue of abusing migrants on Belarussian territory" should be brought to the attention of the UN, including the United Nations Security Council.

The four prime ministers urged the UN High Commissioner for Refugees "to take active steps to facilitate the solution of this situation and to require the Republic of Belarus to comply with its international obligations assumed, inter alia, under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."

According to the four leaders, Belarus "must assume full responsibility for people whose arrival to its territory it has organised itself."

'Grave breach of human rights'

The statement went on: "It is unacceptable that people who have arrived in Belarus are being unlawfully directed to the EU external border, to be later prevented from returning to their countries of residence.

"Weaponizing refugees and immigrants threatens the regional security of the European Union and constitutes a grave breach of human rights.

"Such behaviour should be condemned in strongest terms by the whole democratic community."

The four prime ministers also said that their countries were ready "to provide all necessary protection to persons who enter ... on conditions under the international refugee law and our obligations."

They added, however, that they "will take all necessary actions, including advancing advocating for the possible new restrictive measures by the EU to prevent any further illegal immigration orchestrated by the Belarusian state."

"We, the Prime Ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland urge Belarusian authorities to avoid any further escalation in our bilateral relations and with the European Union," the statement also said.

It concluded that "the only way to solve the existing political crisis in Belarus is to launch a genuine internal dialogue with all internal political forces interested in shaping the future of Belarus, the representatives of the Belarusian civil society, including those in exile and to release all political prisoners including national minorities and to organize free and fair elections as soon as possible."

The statement came after Poland and the Baltic states last week accused Lukashenko's regime of intentionally pushing thousands of migrants over the EU's eastern border in retaliation for EU sanctions.

(gs)

Source: PAP, IAR, gov.pl