EU faces revolt from member states over Belarus border crisis: ‘Baked into cake’

Belarus-Poland: Migrants detained attempting border crossing

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Leaders in Brussels are attempting to decide whether to curb the rights of migrants entering the bloc to ward off what the EU has desired as a hybrid attack by Minsk. Thousands of migrants have made their way to Belarus’ western border — which doubles up as the bloc’s eastern frontier — in search of asylum or a better life. Many have claimed President Alexander Lukashenko has allowed migrants to pass through his country and onto the EU in retaliation against western sanctions.

These restrictions were imposed following allegations of human rights abuses in Belarus, and after the country diverted a RyanAir plane to Minsk, arresting passengers opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

As the crisis becomes entrenched, the European Commission has suggested a swathe of proposals that would allow Poland, Lithuania and Latvia — countries that share a border with Belarus — to restrict migrants’ rights for six months.

It would also require them to claim asylum at allocated locations.

Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis threatened to tear the continent apart, with many claiming it at least in part fuelled arguments for Brexit.

With the new proposals, the upper echelons of the bloc appear to be more than aware of this.

According to Professor Matthew Longo, a political scientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, EU member states could push back against Brussels should it fail to get a handle on the new influx.

He said the whole way in which the EU is set up allows members to actively shout down the bloc when it attempts to impose new rules, like giving Frontex, the EU’s border agency, more powers.

He told Express.co.uk: “It’s always possible that member states will push back against the EU if it doesn’t sort the Belarus migrant crisis out.

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“When the EU decided it wasn’t going to become anything polity-like, the idea that it would be able to secure a polity-wide border was always a bit fanciful.

“It’s only 15 or 20 years later that Frontex is beginning to act even remotely like a consolidated border guard.

“But the idea that member states hold all the power and could pull out and dissent was always there.

“It is the thing undergirding Frontex, and it is not surprising that 20 years later they’ve got better and are much more consolidated now.

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But, it is always inefficient, and more importantly susceptible to being held hostage by its members.

“In that sense I think the ability for member states to push back against Brussels over the border issue is both a possibility and literally baked into the cake.

“The whole EU model is in a way predicated on a possibility that states can do that.”

Currently, member states have full autonomy over their borders and how they choose to police them.

According to Frontex, its role is to reduce the vulnerability of the bloc’s external borders based on “comprehensive situational awareness”, it guarantees safe, secure and well functioning EU borders, and plans and maintains European Border and Coast Guard capabilities.

In times of crisis, like that seen between the bloc and Belarus, member states retain the primary role of control and security.

In recent weeks, Frontex’s Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri visited Poland’s border with Belarus.

Polish authorities assured him that they did not need Frontex’s assistance — yet the crisis continued.

Fewer migrants are trying to cross into the EU’s frontier.

But earlier this month the Polish Border Guard told journalists that the country still faces provocations from Belarusian forces.

Polish Border Guard Captain Krystyna Jakimik-Jarosz said: “Despite the decreasing number of attempts to illegally cross the border, we still have to deal with provocations from the Belarusian side.

“That is how it was yesterday… we saw on the Belarusian side a car of the Belarusian security services from which Belarusian soldiers every dozen or so metres were throwing firecrackers.”

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