How can diplomacy resolve the crisis on the Polish border?

It is a crisis that now goes beyond the case of the 2,000 migrants stuck at the Polish border. On the one hand, Poland, which refuses to welcome these refugees sent from the Middle East via Minsk, while preventing humanitarian aid and Frontex from accessing the camps, against a background of opposition to the European mechanism for the distribution of refugees. . On the other, the Belarus of the disputed President Lukashenko, who is trying to get rid of European sanctions by threatening the rest of the continent to cut off its gas supply. How can diplomacy, especially between the European Union and Russia, get things done?

Can Poland refuse EU aid for long?

The situation is all the more tense as the Polish government is in full conflict with Brussels on the question of the primacy of European law. The European Commission has even applied administrative sanctions against Poland. But “these two situations have no links between them”, estimates Jean de Gliniasty, research director at IRIS and former French ambassador to Russia. “The Union always has the possibility of bringing a Member State to heel, but that would require a long legal procedure. However, we are in an emergency situation ”, abounds Sabine Saurugger, professor of political science at Sciences Po Grenoble.

Resolving the rule of law conflict will not resolve the issue of migrants, and vice versa. Poland also makes it a matter of honor: in 2015, it fiercely fought the European solidarity mechanism in welcoming migrants. “The situation can create an opening on the position of Poland, but we must be careful,” says Sabine Saurugger. The former diplomat wants to be more positive: “Poland will understand the interest of integrating into a European solution. “All the more so since the situation is“ manageable ”, out of all proportion to the hundreds of thousands of migrants disembarking from Syria. However, it is also likely that the EU will stick to its doctrine of bringing migrants back to their countries. Among the solutions proposed, Sabine Saurugger recalls that “the reinforcement of walls between borders” is on the table.

Can the European Union bend Belarus?

In this migratory influx organized and ordered by Minsk, the first accomplices began to be punished. Brussels has already announced sanctions against airlines setting up charter flights from the Middle East to Belarus. And the European Commission will meet again on Monday to decide on new sanctions. “The European position on Belarus will not change, now that the Twenty-Seven are in agreement,” predicts Jean de Gliniasty.

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Often singled out for its heaviness, this time Europe emerges victorious from the comparison with the UN Security Council. “I do not see any slowness in this context, the Security Council met yesterday but no important decision has been taken”, underlines Sabine Saurugger. While Russia has a veto right there, the major UN body has simply called on President Lukashenko, whose election is contested by Westerners, to stop instrumentalizing migrants. On the strength of its common position, the Union can therefore take strong measures against Belarus. But the latter has a strong ally …

Can Russia play the role of mediator?

Always jealously watching over what remains of the Eastern bloc, Russia has been for years the protector of the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko. In recent days, military operations have even been carried out, in Belarus and near the Ukrainian border. A very clear attempt at destabilization. What push the Belarusian president to ignite. “The threat of gas cuts is a threat in the air”, slice Jean de Gliniasty. Belarus only transits Russian gas, and derives its hydrocarbon revenues from oil that Russia sells to it inexpensively. However, “Russia wants to enhance its position as a reliable supplier”, indicates the former diplomat, and has already announced that it will continue to deliver gas to Europe.

Belarus, an ultimately cumbersome ally for the Russian big brother? The country is the first to be directly accused of contributing to human trafficking, which was not the case with Turkey, for example. Inglorious… Vladimir Poutine nevertheless clearly invited the European Union to “reconsider its threats of sanctions”, watered down Sabine Saurugger. Russia, which secretly welcomes annoying the EU, could have acted against this migratory traffic. But she can also overplay the alliance card. Or play the role of mediator by finally calling on Lukashenko to reverse his maneuvers, but “demanding concessions, the lifting of certain sanctions or investments” from Europeans, warns the academic. But as low blows and empty threats multiply in the hushed world of diplomacy, 2,000 refugees remain stranded in the Belarusian cold.

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