EC head says migration crisis is challenge to the EU

Oliver Contreras/PAP/EPA

The head of the European Commission has said that the migration crisis on the Polish border is “a challenge to the whole of Europe” following her meeting with President Joe Biden.

Ursula von der Leyen met the US president at the White House on Wednesday.

Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have been tackling an escalating migration crisis on their borders with Belarus, which they say has been orchestrated by the Belarusian government to destabilise the EU.

Addressing the press about the migration crisis after the meeting, Von der Leyen said: "This is not a bilateral issue of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania and Belarus this is a challenge to the whole of the European Union and this is not a migration crisis it is an attempt by an authoritarian regime to try and destabilise democratic neighbours."

She added that she and Biden shared the same view, that the migrant crisis was a hybrid attack, adding that the attack would fail and that the EU would defend its democracy.

The modus operandi of hybrid attacks was known, Von der Leyen added, and said that other attacks had been seen in the form of interference in elections, cyber-attacks and the dissemination of disinformation. She said that the instrumentalisation of migrants at the EU's external borders was the latest such hybrid attack.

Von der Leyen continued by saying that she had agreed with Biden to appeal to the migrants' countries of origin and had also agreed to consider sanctions against airlines that enable "people smuggling" to Belarus.

The EC president also said that next week the EU would introduce new sanctions against Belarus, which would affect enterprises as well as people connected to the regime.