The Latvian-Belarus border near Robeznieki, Latvia, September 28, 2021 | Photo: Ints Kalnins/ Reuters
The Latvian-Belarus border near Robeznieki, Latvia, September 28, 2021 | Photo: Ints Kalnins/ Reuters

Nearly half of the European Union member states want Brussels to pay for physical barriers to tackle the "political instrumentalization" of migrants. 

Interior ministers from 12 EU states, including Poland, Greece and Lithuania, have asked Brussels to pay for physical barriers to curb irregular migration.

In a letter to the European Commission, the ministers said the move was needed as part of reforms to counter efforts by countries neighboring the bloc to weaponize migration.

The letter proposes a "physical barrier" as "an effective border measure that serves the interest of the whole EU, not just member states of the first arrival."

"This legitimate measure should be additionally and adequately funded from the EU budget as a matter of priority," the four-page letter reads.

The interior ministers of Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia signed the document.

The call came ahead of a meeting of the bloc's interior minister in Luxembourg on Friday, at which they discussed strengthening the EU’s external borders, screening and detaining migrant arrivals.

Also read: Building walls in Europe

Austria slams EU migration policies

Austria's interior minister, Karl Nehammer, has told the German daily Welt that the EU's quota system for distributing asylum seekers would be "pointless" until the bloc's external borders are "rigorously" protected.

"If we had a functioning protection of the EU's external border, hundreds of thousands of migrants would not come to the EU every year," Nehammer said.

"Countries like Croatia and Greece are doing an excellent job but the EU cannot leave these states alone."

Lithuania and Latvia build their own walls

The letter to the Commission from the interior ministers said that EU states are faced with "political instrumentalization" of migrants – referring to a large number of migrants pushed by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko into Europe in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Brussels.

Some of the signatories of the letter have already planned to erect barriers on their borders.

In August, Lithuania announced the construction of a 508-kilometer fence on its Eastern border in the face of an unprecedented number of migrant arrivals from Belarus.

Also read: Lithuanian FM: Belarus using refugees as 'hybrid weapon against EU'

Neighboring Latvia plans to build a 134 kilometer-long barbed wire fence on its border with Belarus, while Greece, Hungary, and Romania have also put up walls and fences on their borders.

Also read: As migration is rising, so are border barriers

EU response

Countries with relatively high asylum applications, such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, were absent from the letter’s signatories.

The letter contained other proposals, including mechanisms for rapid border screening under the supervision of an independent monitoring agency.

A spokesperson for the European Commission told AFP that it had received the letter and would respond. Brussels has previously said that under the current legal framework it can only use EU funds for "border management systems."



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