by Aris Roussinos
Tuesday, 9
November 2021
Reaction
14:37

Polish border is the new Fortress Europe in action

The border squabble with Belarus shows how far the EU has moved since 2015
by Aris Roussinos
Borders are Europe’s present — and likely future. (Photo by Leonid Shcheglov / BELTA / AFP) / Belarus OUT (Photo by LEONID SHCHEGLOV/BELTA/AFP via Getty Images)

If the dramatic images of hundreds of migrants massed together on the Polish border, facing off against a wall of Polish soldiers and border guards, don’t already underline that the Merkel era is over, Germany’s response surely should. The line among Germany’s political class now seems to be that 2015 was the right thing to do, and must never be repeated, with the general secretary of her CDU party tweeting that

“Poland is not only protecting the Polish border. It is also protecting the borders of the European Union. Therefore, Warsaw has the right to claim solidarity from Berlin and Brussels.”
- Paul Ziemiak

Indeed, Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has briefed the tabloid Bild that “we must help the Polish government secure their external border,” noting that “the Poles have reacted correctly so far,” and that “we cannot criticise them for securing the EU’s external border with admissible means. The Poles are fulfilling a very important service for the whole of Europe” in the face of the “hybrid threat” of “politically organised migration.”

It’s clear now that the EU will not accept a repeat of 2015’s great humanitarian experiment, but the expectation had been that Europe’s 2021 border crisis would be a product of Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban. But instead, it’s primarily Kurds from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) who find themselves trapped in the no-man’s land between Belarus and Poland, weaponised by Belarus’ autocrat Alexander Lukashenko as payback for the EU’s support for his country’s opposition-in-exile, and fleeing their homeland’s economic and political mismanagement.

For the first time, KRG has intruded into Europe’s political consciousness as a source of crisis, an uncomfortable shift from its previous role as a valued partner in the fight against ISIS. KRG also seems to be the primary source of the migrants huddling in Calais for the clandestine smuggling route across the Channel to Britain, a growing headache for our own government.

It’s notable then that, along with deepening sanctions on Belarus, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has vowed to travel “to the main countries of origin and of transit to ensure that they act to prevent their own nationals falling into the trap set by the Belarusian authorities,” as well as blacklist “third country airlines” enabling the migratory flow. The likelihood is that the trapped Kurds — who as economic migrants are not eligible for asylum in the EU — will be swiftly flown home, and their political leaders pressured not to allow a repeat. 

As Greeks have noted, the positive EU response to Poland’s militarised border management came far more swiftly and unanimously than when Greece faced the same tactics last year, after Erdogan bussed thousands of migrants to the border in the first — but surely not the last— open deployment of human misery as a weapon against Europe. No doubt, both Lukashenko and Putin are easier for the EU to rail against than Erdogan, who German leaders especially are still fearful to confront. 

But with Lebanon hurtling towards collapse and Afghanistan’s tragedy far from over, European leaders are settling on a policy of border fortification and pushback when it comes to sudden migratory flows, whatever their rhetoric to the contrary: now its usefulness to Europe’s enemies has been proven, the postwar asylum regime looks like a relic of a different era. From the Aegean to the Baltic, ranks of soldiers behind shields and men on horseback are patrolling the continent’s growing line of border walls: Europe’s 21st century already looks distinctly premodern.

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago

“As Greeks have noted, the positive EU response to Poland’s militarised border management came far more swiftly and unanimously than when Greece faced the same tactics last year, after Erdogan bussed thousands of migrants to the border in the first — but surely not the last— open deployment of human misery as a weapon against Europe. No doubt, both Lukashenko and Putin are easier for the EU to rail against than Erdogan, who German leaders especially are still fearful to confront.”
The Greeks should have been supported far more quickly and unambiguously last year. I don’t think anyone other than the idiots in Brussels thinks otherwise. It just takes idealistic dreamers a long time to face up to a new reality.
This incident has the potential to get nasty, but the Poles have to hang tough and the EU needs to support them unanimously – regardless of any other arguments which are going on in the background.
Allowing these migrants through will:
a) amount to condoning the use of vulnerable people as weapons;
b) indirectly help to fund smugglers and the Belarussian government who are alleged to be making a mint off this new “tourism”;
c) polish off the last bit of trust the people in the EU had that there is any type of control going on over migration;
d) make legal immigrants feel like absolute fools for having taken the legal route (and having to deal with the no doubt significant hurdles on the way).
There is no pleasant way out of this situation but the truth is that we’re living in a different, harsher world now and this means having to make tough, unpleasant choices.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Lazarus’s noble sentiments enshrined on the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” are fine sentiments for a sparsely populated continent in an age before the construction of the Welfare State to indulge in.
Unfortunately, modern European states are based on the assumption that the state will protect the standard of living of the citizens and provide a safety net of benefits that in theory has been paid for by the citizens of those states. An enormous influx of migrants upsets the whole basis of these assumptions.
We in Europe may be the lucky holders of a winning lottery ticket compared to those who have been born in less happy lands but unless we defend our borders that lottery ticket will be much diminished in value.

Last edited 7 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Good point.

John Murray
John Murray
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’d add that at the time they put up the Statue of Liberty and then sticking that poem on it, mass immigration was not working out so well for the original indigenous inhabitants. It’s always been a bit strange to me when people cite the United States as an example on the benefits of mass immigration, I mean, sure, if you ignore the obvious.

James Joyce
James Joyce
7 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

No one should ever cite the US as an example of the “success” of mass immigration, virtually all from the Third World. Look at the Southern border and see who is coming in. Biden, like Merkel, has welcomed them and the invasion is endless.
US has maybe 330mm people and maybe 100mm are desperately poor. Really, really poor, on the brink of malnutrition, homelessness. Maybe another 100mm are working poor, a big step up. The numbers are staggering!
A year or two ago, there was a poll that essentially asked: How would you handle an unexpected expense of $400? I think 30% or maybe even 40% said they couldn’t handle it–it might be the beginning of the end, starting them on their one-way downward slide. And it’s easy to incur an unexpected expense of $400–very easy. The roads are so bad that I saw a study that found, on average, Americans pay about $1,000 every year in car damage due to bad roads. Sounds about right.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
7 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Yes, most don’t realise that America is both first and third world.

James Joyce
James Joyce
7 months ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

I would argue more Third World than first. Third World countries, by definition, have pockets of the elite that are extremely rich. Many of the ultra-lux flats in Manhattan are owned by these thieves, and are occupied maybe 1 or 2 nights per year.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’d also add that the answer to the problems of the less happy lands cannot lie in the mass exodus of their citizens. While their problems are multiple and considerable, they are mostly not insurmountable. The general sentiment I have with regard to Afghanistan is that it was and is a hopeless project for the West to try and remodel the country in its own image. If the majority there wish for a Western style liberal democracy, they must fight for that and build it themselves. The same goes for the lands where these migrants are coming from: the West cannot and should not try to solve your problems by taking in everyone who wants to leave. That might be easy for me, as a holder of a winning lottery ticket, to say. But I’m not being glib, just realistic.

Last edited 7 months ago by Katharine Eyre
James Joyce
James Joyce
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
John Lennon had some noble thoughts too (maybe) but they haven’t yet become policy. Sonnets from 1883 by individual Americans should never become national policy.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It was a noble statement, and yet the USA limited immigration numbers to levels lower than those of the UK today.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
7 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I’m confident that the Poles can and will take care of this.

James Joyce
James Joyce
7 months ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

It seems its September 1939 and Poland is being deserted by its allies again. Not only Poland but LV, LT.
As a matter of interest, why are you confident that Poland can take care of this or are you being ironic?

James Joyce
James Joyce
7 months ago

Wir Schaffen das!
So 2015!
2021. Oops, maybe Wir nicht Schaffen das!
Newsflash for the EU. EU is being played once again! Someone needs to tell the EU that they are at war–maybe a hybrid war–but war nonetheless. The EU has options. Start with NO VISAS for Russians–and this includes you, UK, and US. A united front. None. Not a single one.
BBC’s disgusting propaganda reached a new low today–please, if you can, don’t pay the license fee–when it allowed MSF and others to talk about the poor “refugees” seeking safe haven, as per the rule of law, in Poland. Really! I saw videos of these scammers saying Poland No, Germany!
BBC conveniently omitted any reference to the NGOs like MSF as people smugglers, not humanitarian workers. No mention of the invading hordes using women and children as human shields, no mention that these people knew exactly what they were doing and took a risk. It is essential that they lose. For everyone who wins–makes it to EU soil–it means 100 or 500 will come. The word press shows a picture of a dead Syrian boy so Germany takes more than a million scammers? Crazy! The invading hordes need to sleep in the forest until they freeze to death or until they go back home. They should never be allowed even 1cm onto EU soil.
In other words, these disgusting, invading hordes have zero respect for EU law, no intention of complying with it, no intention of staying in Poland. The EU–supposedly–carefully considered how to deal with real refugees, real people seeking asylum, not the ridiculous mumbling of I fear for my life…. from everyone. Applicants were required to present passports and fingerprints at the first EU country, wait there, be processed there. But these invading hordes have no intention of playing by the rules, so why should the EU? They raise their middle finger–or throw a shoe, to be more culturally appropriate–at the EU and say–Screw you, I’m going to my cousin in Germany. Want to see my passport? I shredded it on the plane. Fingerprints: Good luck–I scuffed my fingertips so you can’t take them–you think I’m dumb, you think I’m staying in Poland, or Latvia or Lithuania? I’m off to Germany to be with my brother. I decide where I go, not you!
Newflash: if you lose your job in Afghanistan/Iran/Pakistan/Syria you do not have an automatic right to live with your cousin in Germany. Too bad, so sad!
In the end, I predict that each and every one of these invading hordes will end up in the EU and this disgusts me beyond words. EU–European civilization–is committing a slow suicide. At least Poland and Hungary have the good sense to fight back on a two front war–against Brussels and against the invading hordes. Once again as in 1939, Poland is left to fight alone and is deserted by its so-called allies.
Time for RealPolitik!

William Hickey
William Hickey
7 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

“Heil, Polen!”

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
7 months ago

will be swiftly flown home”
It appears the author lives in a different world to my one, or at least their idea of swiftly is at complete odds with my notion of the meaning of the word.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
7 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

The Polish authorities haven’t the problems we have in the UK. No droves of “yuman-rites” lawyers, etc and if a deportee was put on a Polish airliner there would be no Polish passengers staging a protest even if the deportee had been caught shoplifting. In fact if the deportee had been foumd guilty of a serious offence “Against the Person” he or she should consider themselves lucky to survive the journey uninjured. OK people the Poles.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
7 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

If they are swiftly flown home, then maybe we could have some Polish judges on secondment here.

William Hickey
William Hickey
7 months ago

Do you remember all of the disdain heaped on American isolationists by wise Europeans, Americans who were said to be seeking an impossible “Fortress America?”

Welcome to “Fortress Europe,” y’all.