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Unlike Before, Poland Gets Support From Europe on Tough Borders

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BRUSSELS — The migration disaster of 2015, when tens of millions of migrants and asylum seekers surged over Europe’s borders, practically tore aside the European Union. Many members supplied asylum to the refugees; others, like Poland and Hungary, needed no a part of it.

Six years later, the present standoff on the border of Poland and Belarus has echoes of that disaster, however this time, European officers insist that member states are united in terms of defending Europe’s borders and that uncontrolled immigration is over.

What is totally different, the Europeans say, is that this disaster is completely manufactured by the dictator of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, as a response to sanctions that the Europeans imposed on his nation within the face of a stolen election and a vicious repression of home dissent.

“This area between the Poland and Belarus borders is not a migration issue, but part of the aggression of Lukashenko toward Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, with the aim to destabilize the E.U.,” Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for dwelling affairs, mentioned in an interview over the summer time.

The disaster started in late August, when rising teams of migrants, principally from the Middle East, started massing on the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, shepherded there by Belarus. That motion has now turn out to be a lot bigger, with at the very least 4,000 or extra males, girls and youngsters trapped within the freezing chilly, with out correct shelter or bogs, between Belarus and its neighbors.

Both Poland and Lithuania declared states of emergency and fortified their borders, whereas Belarusian forces have in some circumstances aided the migrants in breaking by way of. The border areas have been shut to journalists and assist employees, however upsetting movies and footage of the migrants dealing with barbed wire have been distributed, usually by Belarus itself.

On Wednesday, the German international minister, Heiko Maas, known as Mr. Lukashenko’s techniques a “cynical power play” and mentioned that blackmail should not be allowed to succeed. In Washington the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, met President Biden and emerged to say that what was transpiring on the Belarus border is “a hybrid attack, not a migration crisis.”

The assist for Poland is particularly placing whereas the European Union is locked in a significant confrontation with the right-wing Polish authorities in regards to the supremacy of European legislation over Polish legislation and about restrictions on the independence of the judiciary. In that confrontation, Brussels is withholding from Warsaw billions of {dollars} in funds meant to assist financial restoration from the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet in a sign of how significantly Brussels takes the present standoff with Belarus, Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, visited Warsaw on Wednesday to satisfy with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland to supply solidarity — and even, maybe, some border funds.

“Poland, which is facing a serious crisis, should enjoy solidarity and unity of the whole European Union,” Mr. Michel mentioned. “It is a hybrid attack, a brutal attack, a violent attack and a shameful attack,” he added. “And in the wake of such measures, the only response is to act in a decisive manner, with unity, in line with our core values.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany known as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, urging him to push Belarus to cease its “inhuman and unacceptable” actions on the Polish border, her spokesman mentioned.

Moscow helps Mr. Lukashenko with cash and personnel. Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin mentioned, Mr. Putin informed Ms. Merkel that there was nothing he might do and that the European Union ought to deal instantly with Mr. Lukashenko. Which is strictly what Brussels refuses to do.

But the place of Brussels is delicate, presenting the European Union with a three-pronged drawback. It should present solidarity about defending the borders of the bloc, sympathy in regards to the humanitarian disaster unfolding there and firmness about defending the supremacy of European legislation.

The Europeans can hardly ignore the sight of harmless youngsters, men and women, nevertheless manipulated they could have been, in freezing situations, caught between Polish border guards and troops and barbed wire, and Belarusian troops. The troopers won’t solely prohibit them from returning to Minsk, the Belarusian capital the place many are arriving earlier than transferring to the border, however are additionally actively serving to them breach the Polish border.

At least 10 folks have already died; different estimates are increased, however Poland has barred journalists and nongovernmental organizations from the border space.

In response, Brussels is considering a fifth spherical of sanctions, maybe as early as Monday, geared toward Belarusian officers and at airways which are flying migrants from the Middle East to Minsk. But few imagine that new sanctions will transfer Mr. Lukashenko any greater than earlier ones have carried out, particularly since his efforts are a response to the sanctions already in place.

“This is a very serious crisis for the European Union, not just for Poland,” mentioned Piotr Buras, a Warsaw-based fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s a crisis of security, which could get much worse if Polish and Belarusian guards start shooting, and it’s a very serious humanitarian crisis, because Europe can’t accept people starving and freezing on the border.’”

Given the character of the disaster, Mr. Buras mentioned, Brussels ought to separate it from the confrontation over the rule of legislation: “Whatever we may think about the Polish rule of law crisis, the E.U. must act in its own interest.”

But the Polish authorities, which not has a transparent majority in Parliament, is itself politically caught, Mr. Buras mentioned. “The problem is not that the E.U. doesn’t want to help Poland because of the rule of law,” he added. “It’s the other way around — it’s very difficult for this Polish government to accept help from E.U. institutions that they are fighting on another front. And the government wants to present itself as the sole savior and defender of the Polish people.”

The European Union has supplied Poland assist with its personal border guards, generally known as Frontex, considerably expanded because the 2015 disaster and based mostly in Warsaw, mentioned Camino Mortera-Martinez, a Brussels-based fellow of the Center for European Reform. And Brussels additionally has asylum assist employees members who may also help display migrants to guage their {qualifications} for asylum.

But Poland has rejected each affords and insists on maintaining the border space sealed. One purpose is its struggle with Brussels and its unwillingness to simply accept assist. Warsaw additionally doesn’t need the oversight of its actions that Frontex may present, mentioned Luigi Scazzieri, a analysis fellow in London who can also be on the Center for European Reform.

Nor do Warsaw or Brussels desire a screening process that may act as a “pull factor” to provide Mr. Lukashenko and extra migrants the hope that they will get into Europe this manner.

“The concern on the government side, and this is why they’re so firm, is that if there is even a process to let people in, this will create a narrative that this is a place where people from Iraq and Syria can be processed into Europe, and the numbers won’t be 4,000, as now, but 30,000,” mentioned Michal Baranowski, the director of the Warsaw workplace of the German Marshall Fund.

So policymakers are in an actual conundrum for now, Mr. Scazzieri mentioned. In the longer run, he recommended that sanctions in opposition to the airways would cut back the numbers of migrants, and if the borders remained closed and have been strengthened additional, fewer would danger the journey.

And in some unspecified time in the future, he mentioned, Mr. Lukashenko “will understand that too many migrants in Belarus will create domestic problems.”

Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting from Brussels, and Anton Troianovski from Moscow.