‘Blindness of the European Union continues!’ Bloc savaged over Belarus border crisis

Belarusian services fire shots towards migrants

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is said to have the backing of Vladimir Putin in a plot to lure thousands of migrants from countries like Iraq and Syria to the gates of the EU, where they are currently being left stranded. The UN described the situation as “intolerable” and urged EU leaders to take “immediate action”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday: “I am appalled that large numbers of migrants and refugees continue to be left in a desperate situation in near-freezing temperatures on the Belarus-Poland border.

“I urge the states concerned to take immediate action to defuse and resolve this intolerable situation in accordance with their obligations under international human rights and refugee law.”

But FOCUS online Editor Matthias Hochstätter said that while the EU has a number of options for bringing this crisis to an end, “none of them are clean”.

He added: “Angela Merkel knows this.”

French MEP Thierry Mariani criticised the bloc in a post on Twitter for not taking action.

He wrote: “The blindness of the European Union continues!

“It refuses to fund border protection, and at the same time wants to sanction Poland.”

Mr Hochstätter highlighted the difficulty of the EU holding a strong line at the Polish border, which would force the bloc to “endure the images of refugees camping in the cold and be asked questions about morality and compassion”.

READ MORE: Merkel warned as Belarus migrant row deepens

But Mr Mariani’s reference to sanctions on Poland relates to a different matter altogether (fines imposed by Brussels for Warsaw challenging the bloc’s legal integrity), highlighting the complexity of the issues – all of them linked – currently facing the EU.

Another French MEP, Fabienne Keller, has insisted that the EU takes firm action, despite fears of negative consequences for the bloc.

She wrote on Twitter: “The situation at the Polish border is appalling. Europe has the means to act concretely and quickly.

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She proposed more sanctions against President Lukashenko, as well as sanctions on those aiding his plot and stopping migration flows at the source.

Here again, Mr Hochstätter noted a difficulty, warning that sanctions are unlikely to go far given President Putin’s backing of Belarus.

But given the scale of the problem at hand, many EU officials are urging that something is done, even if the action is controversial and bound to produce further tensions elsewhere.

MEP Jordan Bardella’s message is clear: “What Poland is experiencing is called an invasion. Among these migrants, we would find the insecurity and terrorism of tomorrow on European soil.

“In the face of this hostile destabilisation operation, let’s help Poland defend its borders with a firm message: you will not pass!”

In a similar vein, MEP Catherine Griset insisted that “protecting the Polish border means protecting all European peoples”.

Whatever route is chosen, action is bound to be taken soon.

Additional reporting Maria Ortega.

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