Brussels has vowed to expand sanctions against Belarus because it accuses the country of trying to destabilize its democratic neighbors by playing a “cynic” power game on immigration bordering EU member states.
During a visit to Washington, DC, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that Brussels will expand its measures to target individuals and “entities” early next week. She warned that the authoritarian leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, needs to understand that his actions have a price.
In recent months, thousands of migrants have tried to enter the European Union through its eastern border. Many of them arrived in Belarus by air from countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and some of them arrived in Belarus through hubs such as Dubai.
European officials said that the surge was orchestrated by Minsk to destabilize the European Union and described it as a “hybrid attack” on the European Union.
After meeting with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, Von der Lein stated that this situation is a challenge for the entire European Union, adding that “we must protect our democracies from this cynical game of geopolitical power.” .
“We will expand sanctions on Belarus very quickly at the beginning of next week,” she said. She added that the possibility of sanctions for airlines that facilitate human trafficking entering Minsk and then going to the EU-Belarus border will also be examined.
Earlier, Polish Prime Minister Mateus Morawiecki accused Belarus of creating an immigration crisis at its border as “state terrorism” and called on the European Union to take action against airlines that bring immigrants to the region.
Morawiecki said that the EU must discuss “effectively blocking flights from east to west,” but did not specify the possible form. “There is no doubt that Lukashenko is responsible for this crisis. We must increase the pressure [on him] Through the sanctions mechanism,” Morawiecki added.
EU officials are expected to finalize more sanctions against Minsk in the next few days. After Lukashenko suppressed protests last year for his controversial re-election, Belarus has already been sanctioned by the European Union.
Morawiecki made the above-mentioned speech after meeting with the President of the European Council Charles Michel. He stated that it is legal for Poland and other countries to request EU funds for the construction of border fences and walls.
“It is legally possible for the EU to own physical infrastructure. But this is a decision that the European Commission must make,” Michelle said.
Von der Lein had previously stated that after being attacked by leaders including Hungary’s Victor Orban and Denmark’s Met Frederiksen at the tense summit last month, the EU budget “will not Funds will be provided for barbed wire and fences.”
The committee has stated that EU funds can support the border infrastructure of member states, such as surveillance and the use of drones, but it excludes barbed wire fences.
Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to pressure the Belarusian regime to stop “instrumentalized” immigration, calling it “inhumane” and unacceptable. Poland accused Belarusian ally Russia of “planning” the crisis.
The Kremlin stated that Putin has proposed that representatives of the European Union and Belarus meet to discuss the surge in immigration. But Russian officials also accused the EU of creating a “humanitarian disaster” and tried to “strangle” Belarus by closing the border.
A senior EU official familiar with the phone call between Merkel and Putin on Wednesday said that Putin asked Europeans to talk directly with Lukashenko.
“He insisted on direct contact with the EU,” the official said. Since the post-election suppression in 2020, EU officials have not been able to talk directly with Lukashenko.
According to Interfax news agency, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that Poland’s claim that Russia was behind the crisis is “absolutely irresponsible and unacceptable”, but added that Moscow “has Belarus has provided all necessary assistance”.
The crisis at the Polish border has been going on for several months, but it broke out on Monday when hundreds of migrants tried to collectively breach the border near the village of Kuznica.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Wednesday that the night at the border was “not peaceful”. The border guards stated that a total of 599 attempts to cross the border were made, of which 9 were arrested and 48 were expelled from Poland.
Polish officials estimate that there are about 3,000 to 4,000 immigrants on the border, many of whom live in makeshift camps.
Human rights groups criticized the Polish government for passing legislation to allow migrants found on its territory to be driven back to Belarus.
Additional reporting by Max Seddon in Moscow