In response to the tense situation at the Polish border, the European Union tightened conditions for issuing visas for Belarusian officials on Tuesday. Member states have temporarily abolished the visa facilitation system agreed upon by the EU and Belarus last year. The European Commission also called on Minsk to stop using migrants for political purposes.
Since this summer, the Belarusian authorities have been transported tens of thousands of refugees to borders with Poland and the Baltic countries. On Monday, several thousand people tried to cross the Polish border, which is why Warsaw sent an army to the area. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the crisis as a threat to the stability of the entire EU.
In response to the aggravated situation, the EU states have agreed to amend the simplified visa rules, which will continue to apply to ordinary Belarusians but not regime officials.
“Today’s decision once again demonstrates our joint determination to continue to face this ongoing hybrid attack,” said Slovenian Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, whose country currently holds the EU Council presidency.
An agreement to make it easier for Belarusians to travel to the EU has been in force since last year. However, during the summer, President Alexander Lukashenko decided to terminate the associated agreement on the readmission of migrants who entered the EU illegally.
At the same time, the EU countries are preparing a further extension of sanctions, which have so far affected more than 160 people and almost two dozen companies or institutions. Most countries want the new sanctions to affect Belavia airlines, which brings migrants from Asian countries to Belarus.
On Tuesday, the European Commission called on non-European countries to cut off flights with Minsk and prevent Lukashenko from continuing this activity.
“The Commission president has very clearly called on Belarus to stop using migrants for political purposes, endangering their lives,” the Commission spokeswoman said on behalf of Ursula von der Leyen.