Tim Stickings, The National, September 15, 2021
Europe’s enemies will keep using migration as a weapon against the EU until members strike a deal on managing their borders, the bloc’s chief executive has said.
Ursula von der Leyen said the crisis in Belarus — where the regime is accused of deliberately ferrying migrants to EU borders — could be repeated elsewhere.
She announced €100 million ($118m) in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan as the bloc tries to prevent a fresh refugee crisis triggered by the fall of Kabul.
But she said talks on an EU asylum overhaul had been “painfully slow” as countries argue over how to share out migrants.
She said human traffickers were continuing to exploit people in the Mediterranean Sea, where arrivals to Italy have doubled this year. Migration concerns have also cooled Europe’s ties with Turkey.
“As long as we do not find common ground on how to manage migration, our opponents will continue to target that,” said Ms von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.
“Look at what happened at our borders with Belarus. The regime in Minsk has instrumentalised human beings. They have put people on planes and literally pushed them towards Europe’s borders.
“And, let’s call it what it is: this is a hybrid attack to destabilise Europe.”
Ms von der Leyen made the plea during a State of the Union address in Strasbourg, modelled on the annual speech by the US president.
Ms von der Leyen said the EU would put forward a support package for Afghanistan in the coming weeks.
Her only concrete announcement on Wednesday was the €100m in increased aid, which comes with aid agencies warning of a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.
She said Brussels would provide support to Afghans in neighbouring countries, where some people have fled over land borders. Europe sees this as a way of preventing a refugee surge to Europe.