Poland considers activating Nato's Article 4, says PM

Paweł Supernak/PAP

Poland is in discussions with Lithuania and Latvia on whether to trigger Article 4 of the Nato treaty, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, has told PAP.

The three states are dealing with a migration crisis on their borders with Belarus.

Thousands of mostly Middle Eastern migrants are now camped in Belarus by the Polish-Belarusian border, and there have been numerous attempts to breach the border fence.

Poland, along with the Baltic States, accuses Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president, of deliberately engineering the situation to destabilise the EU.

Areas adjacent to Poland's border with Belarus have been under a state of emergency since September 2 and thousands of border guards, police and troops have been deployed to the area.

"We are discussing with Latvia and especially Lithuania about whether to trigger Article 4," Morawiecki told PAP. "It seems that it is needed more and more. It is not enough to publicly express our concern. Now concrete steps and the commitment of the whole alliance are needed."

Article 4 foresees joint consultations whenever any of the alliance states considers themselves threatened by a breach of territorial integrity, political independence, or security.

"There is no doubt that the matter has gone too far," Morawiecki explained. "We already know that in order to stop the Belarusian regime, words alone are insufficient. We are aware that stronger sanctions will be necessary. In the current situation, I am talking daily with the leaders of European countries on the matter of the crisis on the Belarusian border. We are working very closely with the prime ministers of Lithuania and Latvia, I spoke with them on Saturday."

He said further sanctions would be the subject of talks at an upcoming EU Council as well as the possible complete closure of the border in order to starve the Belarusian regime of economic benefits.

Morawiecki added that diplomatic moves were taking place to block airlines involved in the passage of migrants to Belarus.

Such measures, Morawiecki said, had already borne fruit with Turkish and Iraqi airlines declaring they would cease their involvement with Minsk's policy.

If migrants at the border required humanitarian assistance, the prime minister added, Poland stood ready to deliver any amount of food, medical equipment, warm clothing and sleeping bags, as long as the Belarusian authorities did not continue with their policy of blocking aid convoys.

The prime minister also said that the government is working on new legislation that will replace the state of emergency, which comes to an end in November.

He said a bill would be presented in the coming weeks and that the new regulations would be brought into force to allow the authorities to effectively support the Polish security services. He added that journalists would still be banned from the area for their own safety.

Morawiecki said he would not wait for a further EUR 25 million to be made available from the Integrated Border Management Fund, as proposed by the European Commission, and that the money would not solve the problem. Pointing out that Poland is protecting not only itself but the whole EU, the prime minister highlighted that a border fence would cost about PLN 1 billion (EUR 220 million) and maybe even more than PLN 1.5 billion (EUR 320 million).

He said it was clear to him that the whole bloc should contribute to the project and that Poland was bearing high costs daily in protecting the eastern border.

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