Updated at 15:27,23-09-2020

Minsk wants EU to appreciate its border security effort

Andrey Fyodaraw, BelaPAN

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on January 27 urged the European Union (EU) to offer Belarus more aid for fighting illegal migration and goods smuggling. The EU may find it expedient to increase cooperation with the Belarusian authorities in the area.

EU urged to appreciate Belarus’ effort

The Belarusian leader emphasized the need for Belarus to demonstrate its determination to crack down on illegal migration and smuggling, which, he said, the 28-nation bloc would appreciate and provide more aid to the country's border control service.

"We have professionals, a training system, personnel. Give us money and equipment and then we will be working together. And appreciate us as your partners," he said.

It was not the first time officials reminded Brussels of Belarus’ role in maintaining security on the shared border.

In December 2002, Lukashenka warned the EU that his country alone could not shoulder the burden of accommodating some 200,000 illegal migrants seeking to cross the border into the EU. The statement came amid tensions with the EU after it had imposed a travel ban on several Belarusian officials following the closure of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk.

In December 2012, a senior Belarusian border security official made it clear that Belarus may relax control of outgoing traffic.

Lukashenka has toned down his rhetoric as of late apparently in an effort to cool tensions with the EU in the run-up to the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship scheduled to take place in Minsk in May.

Civilized border benefits both countries

The Belarusian leader takes a pragmatic approach to border cooperation with the EU. “Give us money and equipment and then we will be working together.”

The European Commission provided more than €50 million for border management projects in Belarus between 2002 and 2012. It plans to spend €40 million more in the next few years.

In addition, the EU spent €72 million on other joint projects dealing with migration, shelters for migrants, customs and border security.

The money helped improve services and speed up cross-border traffic. Improved border-crossing conditions appear to be one of Belarusians’ arguments in favor of closer ties with the EU.

Distinction between aid to regime and border security cooperation

Critics say that any assistance to Belarus helps consolidate the Belarusian regime.

Andrey Sannikaw, an exiled Belarusian opposition politician, told The Telegraph recently that Belarusian border guards used EU-supplied equipment to search him at the border under orders from the Committee for State Security (KGB).

Even if on that occasion, as Sannikaw says, EU-supplied equipment was used for a wrong purpose, it has benefited hundreds of thousands Belarusian travelers.

Sannikaw and some other politicians want the EU to break off all ties with Minsk and impose economic sanctions, hoping that resulting social unrest can help Belarusian to overthrow the government.

The EU is unlikely to heed Sannikaw’s proposals. Quite the contrary, it would be good if the bloc assisted Belarusians in border and other practical matters.