The conclusions of the European Council on migration (22 October) drew a stark contrast between the standards and the process of the European Union and the bankruptcy of the Lukashenko autocracy.
Firstly, the measured and rationale response by EU leaders was thanks to established democratic traditions. Clear, transparent and accountable. Above all, united.
Secondly, the request to the Commission to propose any necessary changes to the EU’s legal framework and concrete measures underpinned by adequate financial support to ensure an immediate and appropriate response, explicitly references that they must be in line with EU laws and international obligations, including the fundamental rights.
This shows the power of the European Union. Even in the face Lukashenko’s provocations, of state sponsored smuggling, the EU is committed to the rule of law.
In summary, the European Union was able to emphasise both the support to Member States directly challenged at their border, while at the same time clearly signalling that we should hold ourselves to higher standards. We are not Lukashenko, as I have stated many times.
In the Council conclusions, the explicit reference to Belarus shows recognition that this is an unprecedented situation. That it requires a specific, tailor-made, response
The Council understands that Lukashenko and his increasingly desperate supporters needs to be seen for what it is. A violent and illegitimate regime. And one that is profiting by luring people to Minsk and then condemning them to freeze in border forests.
The world needs to understand better the lawlessness of this regime. It needs to understand the oddness of Lukashenko the person and the desperation of a regime in its death throes. As the Council conclusions state; “The EU will continue countering the ongoing hybrid attack launched by the Belarussian regime, including by adopting further restrictive measures against persons and legal entries, in line with its gradual approach, as a matter of urgency”.
The sooner we get to a post Lukashenko Belarus, the sooner we can move beyond this dark chapter.
I spoke recently with David Miliband, President of International Rescue Committee. He shared my assessment that there must be a better global understanding of what the Lukashenko regime is attempting. He shared the UNHCR opinion ( ) that more transparency and cooperation is needed at the border.
On the question of transparency, I had a highly informative discussion with the Mayor of Bialystok Tadeusz Truskolask last Friday (22 October). Bialystok is the regional capital of the area affected by the state of emergency in Poland. He outlined his concerns about the lack of media or NGO access to the area, and gave a frank assessment of how this feeds into the wider rule of law debate. I thanked him for his frankness and for his offer to visit his city in the near future.
These concerns were echoed by European Peoples’ Party MEP Janina Ochojska, whom I met recently in Strasbourg.
On my instructions, on 21-21 October the Director General of DG HOME, Monique Pariat, visited Warsaw and met with Polish authorities to receive an update on the situation. She passed a message of support for border protection in light of the hybrid nature of the situation. She also stated the need to continue discussions, including on compliance of Polish asylum law with EU acquis, and to have transparency so that further steps can be based on the evidence.
Overall the European Council succeeded in showing both the unity and the high standards of the European Union. Both of these points were encapsulated in the closing press conference by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when she said that; “there is funding of border management by the European budget, not only equipment but partly personnel, but also all the electronics that are necessary, and also infrastructure. There was a discussion on the so called physical infrastructure and I was very clear, there is a long standing position in the European Commission and the European Parliament that there will be no EU funding of barbed wire and walls”.
This blog outlines the benefits of the proposals on migration tabled by the European Commission on 23 September 2020. For more detail on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum see below.
For More information
Commissioner Johansson’s blog: More legal pathways to the EU
DG Migration and Home Affairs website: Resettlement and other pathways to protection
- Publication date
- 24 October 2021
- Directorate-General for Communication