The European Union enters fully into the debate on the financing of border walls against migrants and refugees. While the issue was on the table at the last summit of leaders in Brussels, three weeks ago, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, expressed a frontal opposition to dedicating community money to build fences and gates, something that some Heads of State and Government did ask in the European Council. As requested by the majority party in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party.
For their part, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia have signed a letter in which they ask: “The physical barrier is an effective border protection measure that serves the interests of the entire EU. This legitimate measure should be funded from the EU budget as a matter of priority.”RELATED
And now the one who is vehemently defending the financing of border walls with European money is the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. He already did it on Tuesday night in Berlin, in his speech on the anniversary of the fall of another wall, that of Berlin. And this Wednesday, in Warsaw, together with the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, he argued it even more during a press conference in which he did not mention issues that, until recently, seemed pressing in the EU, such as authoritarian drift and homophobic of the ultraconservative Polish government, including its assault on the judiciary, very recently condemned by the CJEU and the European Court of Human Rights. Michel has also not spoken about the problems that the press is having in accessing the Polish side of the border due to the restrictions decreed by Warsaw, a matter that the media have asked about.
“We are facing a brutal hybrid attack on the EU borders,” Michel said in Berlin before traveling to Poland: “Belarus is using the distress of migrants in a cynical and surprising way. At our last European Council we condemned and We decided to respond to these attacks and call on the European Commission to propose all necessary measures in line with EU law, international obligations and fundamental rights. We have opened the debate on EU funding of physical infrastructure of the borders. This must be resolved quickly. The Polish and Baltic borders are EU borders. One for all and all for one. “
Michel also stated this Wednesday that the idea has the “approval of the Council’s legal services”, although the European Commission’s reluctance has more to do with the political than legal issue of building walls against migrants. A spokesman for the Community Executive explained this Wednesday: “Our position in this regard is something agreed with the European Parliament. But it is important to bear in mind that between 2014 and 2020 with the previous multiannual financial framework, there is an allocation of more than 1,600 million euros specifically for borders. Of this amount, around 400 million have been allocated to the development of information technology systems, more than 330 million to the equipment at the disposal of Frontex, and the remaining amount has been used by the Member States to a wide variety of actions, involving infrastructure financing and border management actions. Therefore, this may include the expansion and maintenance of modernization equipment for border control systems and border control posts. “
Thus, the European Commission states: “European funds finance projects with a clear European added value, we finance projects that contribute to this concept of integrated border management with cutting-edge technologies and infrastructure that are then linked to procedures that are also defined at the level. European”.
The Polish prime minister, for his part, has defended “additional sanctions, for example, in relation to airlines, also with Belarusian ones.” And he has called for a meeting by videoconference of the EU heads of government to address the crisis: “It is a very serious problem. The pressure on the Lukashenko regime has to increase. Without specific sanctions we will not be able to achieve the desired results.”
According to Michel, “it is important to explain to the airlines what are the effects of their decisions in launching a hybrid attack against the EU. And if we cannot convince with arguments, we must be prepared to decide on concrete and operational sanctions, because we must be firm What is happening is serious and we must react firmly. We need to be united. “
In addition, the President of the European Council has developed his request that the EU finance the walls against migrants: “The European financing of physical infrastructures to protect the borders is supported by the legal service of the Council, it is legally possible under the current legal framework” . Michel, however, has acknowledged: “This is a decision that the European Commission must take, but in any case, the legal opinion of the Council is very clear and we will see what the outcome of the debate will be.”
“I want to be transparent”, said Michel: “At the last meeting of the European Council we had an in-depth debate on this issue. We have to clarify what is possible and what is not possible. In Lithuania, for example, there are 600 o 700 kilometers of border with Belarus, and we are facing a new situation compared to the past. Is it possible for the EU to show solidarity by helping to protect national borders, which are also European borders? I hope it is possible to clarify and make the decision as soon as possible on this important issue. “
According to diplomatic sources, the request for an extraordinary meeting made by the Polish Government must first go through the meeting of the ambassadors of the 27 to the EU. Of course, “it seems very likely that, at the ministerial level, the issue of borders and sanctions will be discussed shortly,” while there is a Foreign and Defense Council on Monday and Tuesday next week. The videoconference of the leaders “could happen later”, at the end of November.
Fences on the borders against migrants with European money is what the president of the European PP in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, is asking for, who also aspires to preside over the political family, the European People’s Party. “For the popular Europeans it is very difficult to understand why the EU cannot finance a physical fence along the border with Belarus “, Weber has stated in Politico: “A hybrid war is being fought, we must not be naive. It is a question of defending ourselves and making sure that we decide who is allowed to enter Europe ourselves, not the dictator Lukashenko.”
Weber has insisted on his argument in an interview with a Lithuanian medium, LRT: “The European People’s Party, which is the largest in the European Parliament, does not understand why Europe cannot finance the construction of a physical barrier on the border with Belarus. We know the threats: it is a hybrid war. The Belarusian regime, Alexander Lukashenko, is waging a true hybrid war not only against Lithuania but against the entire Community, and we must defend ourselves. We firmly believe that financial resources should be used for the construction of the border”.
Both Latvia and Lithuania have decided to install at least temporary border barriers, mainly barbed wire fences, while Latvia plans to build a permanent one from next year. Both countries have prohibited the press from accessing the border areas with Belarus, thus vetoing independent news coverage of what happens in the area. reports Efe.
The Polish government already announced in August that it will build a 2.5 meter high wall along its border with Belarus to stop what it calls a “migratory war” promoted by Lukashenko.