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Children play at a refugee center in Bialystok, Poland, on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Aleksandr Lukashenko Belarus European Union Frontex illegal migrants Commentary Poland

Poland cannot afford conflict with EU during migration crisis

Poland must convince EU institutions to support it in the border conflict with Belarus, writes political scientist and Warsaw Collegium Civitas professor Marek Cichocki

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Marek A. Cichocki

The conflict with the European Union over the Polish judiciary has shown that the supporters of Polish sovereignty do not grasp the logic behind the Union’s functioning. After all, both Poland and the EU’s institutions are part of this transnational structure — not understanding logic and reality always produces poor results.

If only I were wrong. Sadly, I fear that the crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border is increasingly becoming yet another example of the same problem.

It would be tragic if it turned out that Putin and Lukashenko actually understand the functioning of EU institutions better than Poland does — that they understand member states’ attitudes towards migration better than Poland.

The Polish government must secure the Polish border, but it must also convince the EU that its goal is not to combat migrants (the majority of whom are abused, misled, and desperate people), but rather to combat Lukasheko’s regime, which has created a hybrid war on the EU’s borders by way of weaponizing those same migrants.

Common sense dictates that it is better to have EU institutions on your side in face of conflict as dangerous as the one orchestrated by Lukashenko than to have them against you.

This means that, in this conflict, Poland has found itself in a position (not only towards Minsk’s actions) in which it must consider the internal EU context on issues such as external border protection and migration policy.

It is exactly for this reason that I cannot abide by the policy moves that have led to the government’s introduction of an information monopoly and a conflict with Frontex (the European agency responsible for the protection of external borders) under the slogan of Polish “sovereignty.”

One can understand a lack of trust in EU institutions or a skeptical approach to the media. Nevertheless, common sense dictates that it is better to have EU institutions on your side in the face of conflict as dangerous as the one orchestrated by Lukashenko than to have them against you. Within the EU, negative opinions about Poland pervade, and it is not difficult to strengthen this negative perception on the heels of a migration crisis.

Why should Poland help create this negative image?

As for the EU, a country should sometimes oppose EU institutions but also be able to use them and bring them around to its side. Otherwise, it may turn out that the Polish government will have won the battle of protecting Polish borders but ultimately lose the war with Lukashenko in the EU.