Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis: EU needs a unified and coordinated return policy for irregular migrants
On 12 July, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis attended the EU's Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels and stressed the importance of the EU's solidarity with Lithuania, which was dealing with the Belarusian regime's migratory pressure, and proposed considering measures for the EU's joint response.
According to the Foreign Minister, the EU needs a united, coordinated and effective return policy for irregular migrants. “Lithuania is grateful to its allies for their attention, understanding and solidarity. Even more help of our allies will reach us in the near future, as both officials and equipment are arriving. However, only a very clear and unified EU policy on returning irregular migrants can effectively prevent criminal groups and regimes from exploiting illegal migration for their own purposes. Europe’s message must be short and precise – those illegally entering the EU cannot be granted a refugee status and will be returned to their countries of origin," said Landsbergis.
According to Lithuania’s Foreign Minister, active involvement of the European Commission and Frontex is needed not only in the protection of the EU’s external border, but also in the provision of humanitarian aid to migrants, cooperating with the countries of origin on return and readmission, without excluding the possibility of resettlement in the future.
The head of Lithuania's diplomacy informed his counterparts in Brussels that the Belarusian regime with the support of Moscow engaged in illegal smuggling of migrants and prepared an unprecedented hybrid attack against Lithuania and the EU, opening a new route for illegal migration in Eastern Europe, thus taking advantage of refugees. “Lukashenko seeks to increase pressure on the EU and Lithuania that strongly criticise widespread human rights violations in Belarus, and to change the EU’s position on sanctions. At the same time, the regime tests the effectiveness and unity of the EU's actions,” said the Foreign Minister.
We need to expand sanctions on Belarus
Landsbergis proposed to deepen economic sanctions against the Belarusian regime and to prepare the 5th package of sanctions until Lukashenko stopped irregular migration flows.
“The EU must use common instruments and mechanisms to deter its authoritarian neighbours from using irregular migration as a hybrid weapon against member states. I believe that the expansion of sanctions is one of the most effective measures,” said the Foreign Minister, who informed his coumterparts that over the last six months Lithuania had been reached by 21 times more illegal migrants than in the whole year 2020.
Boosting the EU’s resilience
The Foreign Minister noted that the Russia-Belarus military exercises Zapad 2021 would be held soon, so it was necessary to remain vigilant and prepared for new provocations and possible aggressive actions of the regime.
As regards the EU's forthcoming Strategic Compass on security and defence, Landsbergis highlighted the importance of maintaining complementarity and coherence between the EU and NATO activities in this area, with a stronger focus on cyber security and hybrid threats, and on increasing society's resilience. According to the Foreign Minister, the Eastern Neighbourhood countries wish greater EU involvement, including in the field of security, so we should contribute more actively to the development of security capabilities of our neighbours, be it cyber security dialogues, maritime capacity building or deployment of EU civilian and military missions. Landsbergis reminded his countrparts of Lithuania’s proposal regarding the EU's military training mission in Ukraine.
When discussing the impact of new technologies on the EU's foreign and security policy, Landsbergis pointed out that autocratic regimes were using new technologies for political purposes, digitally monitoring the movement of persons and carrying out operations of influence, manipulating information, spying, violating human rights in the digital sphere. In addition, the Foreign Minister stressed that the EU should be actively involved in the development of standards and ethical norms for the use of new technologies and counterbalance the rules imposed by non-democratic countries.
The Foreign Minister also briefed on the outcomes of his visit together with the Foreign Ministers of Austria and Romania to the South Caucasus on behalf of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, and of the Ukraine Reform Conference in Vilnius.