Lithuania and Poland will seek EU funding for the construction of a fence on the border with Belarus, the Lithuanian Interior Ministry has said.
Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė and Bartosz Grodecki, undersecretary of state at the Polish Ministry of Interior and Administration, agreed on the action during their meeting in Vilnius on Thursday.
“Both sides unanimously agreed that it is necessary to seek EU funding for the construction of the fence, as well as faster decisions on changes to EU border protection and migration legislation,” the Lithuanian ministry said in a press release after the meeting.
Both Lithuania and Poland have decided to erect a physical barrier on their borders with Belarus amid a surge of migrants trying to cross in from the neighbouring country.
EU officials have said repeatedly that the European Commission only finances some security measures, such surveillance systems, but the bloc's existing legislation does not provide for funding a physical barrier.
Bilotaitė and Grodecki also agreed to continue cooperation and to present a common Lithuanian-Polish position on human rights and irregular migration at the EU.
“Illegal migration is not acceptable in the European Union, especially when it comes to chaotic and illegal border crossings from neighbouring countries that are not facing war or other threats,” Bilotaitė said in the press release. “We will seek changes in EU law, because countries need to have the means to protect their national interests.”
“Lithuania has worked out a package of proposals and together with Poland, Estonia and Latvia, we are working to bring about change and we are already mobilising a broader alliance of EU countries to do so,” she said.
“Together with Poland, we will also seek to draw the attention of the international community to the root cause of this situation – actions by the Belarusian regime and the human rights situation in Belarus.”
Grodecki underlined that Lithuania and Poland had an “obligation” to protect their national borders which are also the EU's external limits.
“Belarus is not a natural migration route; it is an organised human smuggling scheme.” he said. “We are witnessing an attack of disinformation and migrants are also being tricked into thinking they can easily reach the EU.”
Bilotaitė said that Lithuania installed 32 kilometers of concertina wire along its border with Belarus so far and expected to complete a physical barrier along its entire length within a year.
On Friday, Vilnius is hosting a meeting of the Lithuanian-Polish Intergovernmental Commission for Cross-Border Cooperation.
These are regular meetings of Lithuanian and Polish officials to discuss issues of cross-border cooperation, protection and rescue of the population in emergency situations, territorial planning and interregional cooperation.