In order to prevent the illegal entry of migrants from Belarus, the Polish border region is becoming a restricted zone. A state of emergency was also imposed – a controversial measure.
Poland has declared a state of emergency in the border region with Belarus . By signing a corresponding decree, President Andrzej Duda responded on Thursday to the illegal entry of many migrants from the eastern neighboring country. “The situation on Poland’s border with Belarus is difficult and dangerous,” said a spokesman for the presidential administration in Warsaw.
The state of emergency, which is to apply for 30 days, came into force in the afternoon when it was published in the official gazette. Parliament must be informed within 48 hours and has the opportunity to revoke the order.
A three-kilometer-wide strip along the border with a total of 183 villages is affected. Meetings and major events are now prohibited there. Access to public information is restricted. Media representatives would have to stay outside the border zone, said Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski. Photographing soldiers, border guards and police officers and their equipment is prohibited. From midnight onwards, everyone who is neither privately nor professionally connected to the area would have to leave the border strip.
The government in Warsaw has accused the Belarusian ruler, Alexander Lukashenko , of bringing refugees from crisis regions to the EU’s external border in an organized manner. Lukashenko announced at the end of May that Minsk would no longer prevent migrants from continuing to travel to the EU – in response to tightened Western sanctions against the former Soviet republic.
“We have to consider the security of Poland and the EU,” said the spokesman for the presidential administration. Poland’s 418-kilometer-long border with Belarus is also an external EU border.
Provocations cannot be ruled out
Interior Minister Kaminski said one of the reasons for imposing the state of emergency was the joint military maneuvers that the Russian and Belarusian armies would hold from September 10 in western Belarus on the border with Poland. You have to be prepared for any kind of provocation. “On the other side of the border there will be very dangerous people with firearms and ammunition.”
Recently, Latvia and Lithuania also declared a state of emergency in response to illegal immigrants entering several regions on the border with Belarus. Among other things, this authorized the border guards to turn away migrants.
Precarious situation for refugees
In Poland, however, the state of emergency is controversial. The Polish public recently focused on the fate of a group of refugees from Afghanistan who have been stuck near the border town of Usnarz Gorny for a good three weeks. Polish border guards, police officers and soldiers have cordoned off the camp and are not allowing the refugees into the country. The national-conservative PiS government is known for its tough stance on the refugee issue.
Ex-President Aleksander Kwasniewski criticized that the PiS government refused to declare a state of disaster even at the height of the corona pandemic. Now the real reason for the state of emergency is that one can restrict the access of journalists, helpers and representatives of international organizations in order to act without public scrutiny.
The EU states want to react much harder to “malicious” actions by Russia in the future. According to a decision by the heads of state and government on Friday night, a plan for punitive measures is to be drawn up, which also includes economic sanctions.
There is “a need for a determined and coordinated response from the EU and its member states to any further malicious, illegal and disruptive activity by Russia,” the summit statement said. The EU must therefore make full use of the instruments available to it.
Cases from the past should not be repeated
Examples of activities within the EU for which Russia is responsible are the alleged contract killing of a Georgian of Chechen descent in Berlin’s Tiergarten or the massive cyber attack on the Bundestag in 2015. Most recently, the Czech Republic also accused Russian services of explosions in an ammunition dump in 2014 to be responsible. Two people died in the process.
Responses to such cases have so far been relatively cautious. For example, Russian diplomats were expelled or symbolic sanctions were imposed on officials or government agencies.
Far-reaching economic sanctions against Russia were last imposed in 2014 in the course of the Ukraine conflict after the crash of a Malaysian plane carrying 298 people. According to investigations, it was shot down by pro-Russian separatists over eastern Ukraine.
The sanctions are still in place today. According to the new summit declaration by the heads of state and government, the EU’s position on Russia should only be able to change if Russia makes the necessary contribution to the full implementation of the Minsk peace agreement for the Ukraine conflict .