5th Dec 2021

EU diplomacy tries to avert Belarus-Poland clash

  • EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Washington on Wednesday (Photo:
Listen to article

The EU has gone into high-gear diplomacy to stop the Belarus migration crisis from turning into a military one, amid reports a 14-year old boy has died.

"We will defend our democracies", EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said while meeting US president Joe Biden in Washington on Wednesday (10 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

New sanctions on Belarus officials and firms involved in trafficking migrants to the EU border were going forward next week, she added.

France called for snap talks at the UN Security Council in New York.

German chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Russian president Vladimir Putin to ask him to defuse the situation.

And EU Council president Charles Michel flew to Warsaw to show solidarity.

The EU moves came after Belarus pushed thousands of migrants to the Polish border on Monday, creating a humanitarian and security emergency.

A 14-year old Kurdish boy died of exposure in a forest in Belarus near the Kuźnica crossing-point on Wednesday, according to migrants who spoke by phone to Polish news website

Polish authorities have warned the situation could escalate into "armed" clashes, amid a concentration of Belarusian and Polish soldiers standing nose-to-nose in the region.

And Belarusian opposition contacts have warned EU diplomats Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko might time an armed provocation to coincide with Polish National Independence Day on Thursday.

"We have the full support of Nato and the EU," Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

But on the other side, Russia, which has a mutual defence pact with Belarus under the Collective Security Treaty Organization, made an equal show of solidarity with its ally, indicating how the situation could turn even uglier.

"There is a scenario in which Russia could exploit [a potential military] ... crisis to position new weapons systems, such as tactical missiles, on the Belarusian-Polish border," an EU source said.

The new EU sanctions on Belarus are to be agreed by foreign and defence ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Denmark had proposed an initial list of 25 to 30 names.

Diplomats could work through Saturday and Sunday in order to finalise the measures if need be, officials said.

And more sanctions, including on foreign airlines, travel agencies, or other firms who helped Lukashenko in "trafficking" migrants from the Middle East could follow, if Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, among others, did not halt flights.

The EU foreign ministers will also discuss long-term security strategy on Monday, including plans to create a 5,000-strong rapid reaction force by 2025.

"While Nato is and will remain the foundation of collective defence for its members, our strategic competitors should not question the EU's common resolve to respond to aggression and malicious activities against any one of our member states in accordance with article 42(7) of the Treaty on European Union," the EU plans to say in a 'Strategic Compass' document, according to a draft to be discussed at Monday's meeting.

But if EU diplomacy failed to stop the powder keg from erupting on the Polish-Belarus border, the timing might be as painful for its talk of strategic autonomy as for Poland's independence celebrations.

"The Strategic Compass is a political proposal to prevent the major risk the EU is facing: that of 'strategic shrinkage', or the risk of being always principled but seldom relevant," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell is planning to say in his preamble to the EU 'Compass' document, which is to be formally adopted next March

News in Brief

  1. Covid: Belgium might close schools and cultural activities
  2. EU consumers can sue Facebook, judge advised
  3. French centre-right tilts toward Pécresse
  4. EU urged to blacklist Israeli spyware firm
  5. Austria's ex-chancellor Kurz quits politics
  6. EU agency: Omicron to be over half of infections 'within months'
  7. New German restrictions target the unvaccinated
  8. EU commission unveils proposal to digitalise justice systems


The South China Sea should be of concern to Europe

If China is allowed unimpeded to break the law of the sea in the South China Sea, think about the repercussions elsewhere. It could ricochet into Europe's High North. In the Arctic, Nordic nations have overlapping claims with Russia.


Europe to define new space ambitions at February summit

The number of commercial satellites in orbit is growing exponentially, as is space tourism - and with it, problems with debris. Does Europe want to join the race and invest in more satellites and future Moon or Mars missions?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Belgium tightens Covid rules as health system 'is cracking'
  2. EU and US tighten screw on Lukashenko
  3. Belgian impasse leaves asylum seekers on snowy streets
  4. EU 'missed chance' to set fossil-fuel subsidies deadline
  5. EU energy ministers clash amid gas price uncertainty
  6. ECJ told to dismiss Poland and Hungary rule-of-law challenge
  7. Covid: what Germany got right - and wrong
  8. Quick Take: Enrico Letta

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us