EU shattered over crippling migrant crisis – desperate states move to DEFY von der Leyen

Belarus-Poland: Migrants detained attempting border crossing

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The pressuring situation on the border between the bloc and Belarus is pushing more EU leaders to back border walls and fences, arguing the EU Commission to approve funds for their construction. The first to propose such a drastic physical solution was Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the midst of the 2015 migration crisis that crippled the bloc.

At the time, Mr Orban was alone in his quest, which was promptly dismissed by the then European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

When five years ago Greece proposed a wall on its border with Turkey, Mr Juncker also dismissed the call saying: “No fence and no wall is high enough to deter these people from coming to Europe.”

Last month, Ursula von der Leyen renewed Juncker’s position after Lithuania called on the EU to fund a wall on its border with Belarus.

She said: “There will be no funding of barbed wire and walls.”

But EPP President Manfred Weber, the leader of largest group in the European Parliament, went against the Commission chief and supported Lithuania’s demands.

He said: “We, as EPP, we are also asking that in an extraordinary situation EU funds must be available to finance these kinds of activities.”

On the other hand, the Socialists & Democrats, the second-largest group in the Parliament, are staunchly opposed to the idea.

In October, 12 EU countries led by Lithuania urged the Commission to fund barriers “as a matter of priority” in a letter.

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Poland, currently struggling the most with the arrival of migrants on its border with Belarus, had unlikely partners in its demands, such as socialist Denmark.

Greece, which supports a mandatory redistribution of asylum seekers across the bloc – opposed by Hungary – also signed the letter.

France, however, is opposed to the idea the EU should fund member states’ border policies.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said this week: “I am in favour of a Europe that protects its borders, but not a Europe that puts up barbed wire or walls.”

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In Germany, diplomats do not expect the incoming centre-left party coalition to support the idea either.

The division comes as Europe accuses Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into the EU, which has been at odds with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko since a disputed election last year.

Belarus, which denies fomenting the crisis, cleared a migrant camp near the border on Thursday and started to repatriate some people to Iraq but Poland said on Friday that Minsk was still trucking hundreds of migrants to the frontier.

“Yesterday … there were several attempts to forcefully cross the border.

“The largest group consisted of about 200 foreigners, the others of 10s of people. The foreigners were aggressive – they threw stones, firecrackers and used teargas,” the Border Guard said on Twitter on Saturday.

Polish police said that during one crossing attempt on Friday near the village of Starzyna, Belarusian servicemen threw stones towards Polish border guards, policemen and soldiers, resulting in police cars being damaged.

The Polish Border Guard said on Twitter that there were 195 attempts to cross the frontier on Friday, down from 250 on Thursday and 501 the day before, though Warsaw warned that the migrant crisis was far from over.

Despite the fall in the number of attempts to cross the border, Polish officials said they expected further tensions.

Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for Poland’s security services, wrote on Twitter: “No, this political crisis is not coming to an end. Belarus is still interested in escalating and continuing operations against Poland.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will visit Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Sunday to discuss the crisis, a government spokesman said on Saturday.

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