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PARIS / WARSAW: France on Wednesday assured Poland of the European Union’s support in its clash with Belarus, but reminded Warsaw that it must resolve a dispute with the bloc over its values ​​and the Rule of law.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met with French President Emmanuel Macron as part of a diplomatic effort to rally support for a firm response to what European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen called Belarus’ attempt to use migrants to destabilize the EU.
While reaffirming his solidarity with Poland, Macron reiterated his concerns about the rule of law and “called on the Polish government to find a solution that preserves the fundamental values ​​of the European Union,” his office said.
With thousands fleeing the Middle East and other hot spots stranded at the EU’s eastern border, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are on the front lines of what the EU says is a crisis designed by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
He denied the EU’s claims that Belarus brought migrants into the country and then pushed them across EU borders.
At the same time, Brussels is grappling with a long-standing dispute with Warsaw over the independence of the Polish judiciary, press freedoms and LGBT rights.
The dispute came to a head in October when a Polish court ruling called into question the supremacy of EU law, which was seen in Brussels as a challenge to the unity of the bloc and fueled fears that the Poland could possibly leave.
Morawiecki, is due to meet with interim German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her future successor Olaf Scholz on Thursday and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.
“The Prime Minister is now in talks with European leaders, starting with Paris, President Macron, to maintain the unity of the European Union (…) and to prepare for other actions,” he told Reuters Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz.
Warsaw says that while the number of migrants at the border has declined, repeated attempts to cross the border have shown that Minsk has not given up on its intention to use migrants as a weapon.
Morawiecki said he discussed a potential strengthening of sanctions against Belarus with Macron, whose office said it reaffirmed its willingness to keep the pressure on Lukashenko.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya called on the EU to do more to isolate Lukashenko and ensure that the economic sanctions imposed in July remain strong.
“Let us be firm,” she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “We must not let lobbyists block the necessary sanctions. Let’s close all the remaining loopholes. The EU has imposed sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko’s brutal crackdown on protests against his disputed re-election last year. Diplomats say the latest sanctions package agreed in response to the border crisis is expected to be approved and adopted in early December, with a December 2 working deadline.
While Polish border guards have reported more attempts by migrants to force the border crossing, Warsaw’s concern, shared by its neighbors, is that tensions that last for months could escalate into a wider regional conflict.
Ukraine, which says it fears being drawn into the crisis and accuses Russia of massing its troops nearby, said it has launched an operation to strengthen its border, including military exercises for anti-tank and airborne units.
While the international community accuses Lukashenko of instigating the crisis, human rights activists say Poland has contributed to the suffering of migrants through its actions.
Human Rights Watch said in a report Wednesday that Poland shares responsibility for the dire conditions with Belarus.
He cited cases of migrants separated from family members receiving medical care or who crossed the border to be returned without being able to seek asylum.
“Men, women and children have been ping-pong across the border for days or weeks in freezing weather, in desperate need of humanitarian aid that is stranded on both sides,” Lydia Gall, senior researcher for Europe and Central Asia to Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.


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