EU calls meeting on Belarus border crisis

A member of the European Union border agency Frontex in Kapciamiestis BCU, Lithuania, 19 July 2021. The European Union border agency Frontex is deploying 60 border guards to control the flows of illegal migrants from Belarus crossing the Lithuanian border. [Stringer/EPA/EFE]

European Union ministers are to hold crisis talks on what they see as a bid by Belarus to pressure Lithuania and the rest of the bloc by encouraging a migrant influx.

Slovenia, which holds the EU rotating presidency, said the talks would take place by video conference on 18 August, under a crisis response mechanism.

Invited are the home affairs ministers from the 27 member states as well as representatives of the Frontex border guard agency, the European Asylum Support Office and Europol.

“With the situation at the Lithuania-Belarus border, the EU has come under a serious security threat and is a witness of state-sponsored weaponisation of illegal migration in Belarus,” a spokesman for the Slovenian EU presidency said.

“The situation is complex and involves different actors. Ministers of home affairs can deal with only one aspect of the situation and, clearly, further actions are needed at the European level.”

On Thursday (5 August), the EU foreign affairs service summoned Belarus’s senior envoy in Brussels to demand an end to the “instrumentalisation” of migrants crossing into Lithuania.

Brussels has accused strongman Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately encouraging new unauthorised arrivals of mainly Iraqi migrants in retaliation for sanctions against his regime.

Lithuanian border guards have begun to push back new arrivals and Brussels has urged Iraq — the source of many of the would-be refugees — to halt flights to Minsk.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned last month that EU member states are drawing up stronger sanctions to add to those already targeting Lukashenko and his allies.

These could be approved at a meeting of EU ministers on 21 September.

The EU sanctions blacklist already targets 166 individuals, including Lukashenko and two of his sons, along with 15 companies and agencies linked to the Belarus government.


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