Comment: The Belarus crisis is the final dress rehearsal for a serious EU foreign policy

Lukashenko and Erdogan in 2019

One can regularly accuse European foreign policy of being embarrassing. The principle of unanimity in EU foreign policy has often made Brussels incapable of acting in the past; Other states like to exploit intra-European differences to make the EU their plaything. Rogue states are likely to enjoy themselves like a king when it comes to stumbling, withdrawing or even falling over in Europe.

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is probably currently experiencing a smear comedy with a very special kind of satisfaction. After all, it was he who inspired the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko to take his current approach to drive streams of refugees in the direction of the EU in revenge. And through transit flights from Istanbul, he has become, so to speak, one of Lukashenko’s main suppliers.

The fact that the EU is now acting so decisively in the case of Belarus and immediately introducing new sanctions, for example against airlines and transit countries – although they are associated with negative economic effects for Ireland, for example – shows that the European capitals may learn this way after all slowly from past crises. And it also shows that Brussels is finally enough with Russia and Turkey.

It is no coincidence that the situation with the refugees is currently escalating in the Polish border area and not in the Lithuanian or Latvian region: Lukashenko is aware of the EU’s dispute with Poland. As Warsaw refuses to uphold the rule of law and to recognize EU law as overriding, Brussels wants to stop paying EU funds in order to put pressure on it.

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The EU Commission is therefore refusing to support the Poles in setting up a massive border security system – especially since nobody knows exactly what is going on in the border area. Poland does not grant access to the EU border protection agency Frontex.

Lukashenko’s approach is therefore a targeted destabilization measure, for which intra-European disputes are strategically exploited. That is why the EU should show that it is fully on Poland’s side and that Belarus and its supporters cannot get away with the matter – even if Warsaw’s behavior is of course not to be approved of.

If that doesn’t happen, one of the final dress rehearsals to show the world that the EU can pursue a resolute foreign policy and that it is better not to mess with it has gone wrong once again.

More: Showdown in the border area: Lukashenko is planning that – and so the EU can defend itself

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