PM starts tour of European capitals to discuss migrant crisis
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday began a series of visits to European capitals to discuss the current migrant crisis on Poland's, Lithuania's and Latvia's borders with Belarus.
Morawiecki's first stop was Estonia, where he met with the head of the country's government, Kaji Kallas.
The Polish Prime Minister Speaking in the Estonian capital Tallinn emphasised at a post-meeting press conference that today we are dealing with a new type of war on the eastern border of Poland. "A war in which migrants are weapons, in which disinformation is a weapon, a hybrid war," Morawiecki said.
The prime minister pointed out that looking at what was happening around us, we were dealing with several growing crises. "The first crisis is a political crisis in which people from the Middle East are being used as human shields".
Secondly, he added, we are also dealing with an energy crisis, a gas crisis. "Thirdly, we can clearly see, reported by agencies from around the world, Russia's growing military involvement in this part of Europe, in particular around Ukraine," the prime minister added.
"We can clearly see that the pressure on the eastern flank of NATO, on the eastern border of the EU is increasing more and more. That is why cooperation with our allies is so valuable, as here today in Estonia, where we not only exchanged opinions, but I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the help offered in the form of the Border Guard and Estonian officers who will support our guards in the defence of the Polish-Belarusian border," Morawiecki said.
Morawiecki said the crisis could be resolved quickly. "We can finance the return of migrants to their country of origin at any time, we have also carried out a number of diplomatic actions in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East. In order to stop the additional influx of migrants to Belarus," Morawiecki said.
"We… are also ready to use this escalation ladder, that is, closing subsequent (border) crossings, closing transit and trade opportunities in order to exert economic pressure on the Lukashenko regime," Morawiecki said.
The Estonian Prime Minister, Kaji Kallas, said that she "thanked Poland for protecting the external borders of the European Union and NATO," and added that "Poland has done brilliantly".
"Estonia's security begins at the borders of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia," said Kallas. "We are very grateful to Poland for defending these borders," she added. "We support our neighbours, and we are also helping them to deal with the situation, in particular through diplomatic and political support".
Kallas also added that Estonia was "ready to offer Poland practical support".
During a subsequent visit to Lithuania for talks with the country's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, Morawiecki said Poland "knows with full certainty" that the crisis had been orchestrated by the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
He also warned that the crisis did not only involve Poland and the Baltic countries, but was an attempt to violate the eastern EU and Nato borders.
"It's worth realising, that this is not a conflict just with Poland, this is not a conflict... with Lithuania, but an attempt to infringe on the eastern Nato frontier and the eastern border of the EU," Morawiecki told a press conference after the talks with Simonyte.
"Today we know with full certainty that the movements on the border have been fully masterminded by Lukashenko," he added.
Morawiecki said the border crisis, the recent concentration of Russian forces on the border to Ukraine and the energy crisis were "different elements of the same situation," and warned that the border crisis could be "the beginning of something much worse."
Simonyte said Poland was carrying the brunt of the crisis, and assured that her country was cooperating closely with Poland in the situation. She also stressed that the strategic partnership binding both countries was of major importance for regional security.
"The strategic partnership developed by our countries is immensely important, because - as we have been able to see on numerous earlier occasions - the security challenges in our regions are the same for us, which makes it very necessary for us to deal with them together," she said.
Later on Sunday afternoon, Morawiecki arrived in Riga, the Latvian capital, where he met the Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins to discuss the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border and geopolitical threats.
At a joint press conference with Karins, Morawiecki said that "it is very important that we were able to coordinate our actions. Today we can see that this coordination of actions, the actions of our diplomacy, are bringing results. The resolute resistance of Poland and the Baltic states has resulted in the slowing down of certain actions by the Belarusian regime".
"We were very active in contact with the countries of the Middle East, as well as with our Western partners. This led, among other things, to a change in the attitude of many airlines, which served as a tool for the movement of people, for attracting people, often not fully aware of what awaits them on the territory of Belarus by the Lukashenko regime," the prime minister added.
"We want to continue these joint actions, our solidarity on NATO's eastern flank. Only this solidarity is able to prevent the huge risks and dangers looming on the horizon," Morawiecki said.
During the joint conference, the Latvian prime minister indicated that both countries had a common position and that they were carrying out joint efforts to deal with the crisis on the border.
"If the Belarusian regime believed that it would destabilise or divide Europe, it was very disappointed. On the contrary, Europe has become more united and consolidated. The Baltic states and Poland have always had very good cooperation and we closely coordinate our actions at all levels," Krisjanis Karins said.
He added that both countries say a common "no" to the hybrid attacks by Belarus. "We will not allow Belarus to exploit third-country nationals by illegally pushing them to the border. They are forced to break the law. This is not how the movement of people should look. It should be well coordinated and controlled. No state can control another country's border crossing points with the help of third-country nationals," said Karins.
The Prime Minister of Latvia pointed out that the visit of the Polish Prime Minister was very important because it confirms the common position of the Baltic states on the current crisis. "We will continue to coordinate our activities and exchange information. We will jointly formulate our position in response to the hybrid attacks by Belarus," he said.
Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have been struggling to stem a wave of migrants trying to cross its eastern border from Belarus. EU members accuse the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, of instigating the crisis in order to destabilise the bloc.