Thirty-two Polish diplomats have left Minsk. It happened as a the result of the demand of the Belarusian side. “…in connection with the destructive activities carried out by these countries (Poland and Lithuania),” said Anatol Hlaz, press secretary of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. The Vice Minister of the Polish Foreign Ministry commented to belsat.eu on the situation around this departure.
Belsat: Why did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland agree with the demand of the Belarusian side to limit the number of employees of the Polish mission in Minsk? Was this demand a threat to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus to give diplomats the status of “persona non grata”? Is that why you decided to take this step even before it happened?
Marcin Przydacz: Today (Friday, October 9) Poland will withdraw more than 30 of its diplomats from Belarus. We made this decision at the request of the Belarusian side. However, our decision follows not only because of the unwillingness to take part in the “adventurous” policy that the Belarusian authorities are currently pursuing. This is, first of all, concern for the citizens of Belarus and the duty of the Polish state to help citizens.
But in reality, Lukashenka’s decision, supported by Moscow, to expel diplomats from the EU countries will primarily hit the Belarusian society. It was these diplomats, who are returning to their country today, who were responsible for issuing visas to the European Union. Therefore, these measures are another sharp pressure tool directed against the Belarusians and an attempt to restrict their civil rights, in this case to move freely around Europe. Thus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka wants to close his own society from Europe, from innovations, investments, high quality education and even from the opportunity to go away for tourism purposes or just shopping.
Belarusians are the most mobile society in Europe, and in recent years the consular offices of Poland and Lithuania issued about 75% of all Schengen visas. It happened that Polish institutions alone issued about 400 thousand visas a year! Belarusians received more than all Schengen visas per capita.
I can assure you that we will do everything to limit the negative consequences of this measure, since the right to free movement is one of the fundamental values of a common Europe. We will continue to support Belarusians in their free choice. Poland will also find opportunities and measures to respond to this hostile gesture at the appropriate time and in the appropriate form.
How long for was the Polish Ambassador to Belarus summoned to Warsaw for consultations? Is the option of downgrading our representative office in Minsk being considered?
Not only Poland and Lithuania called their ambassadors off for consultations, but also many other European countries. This was not done due to a threat from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. By demanding the departure of the Polish ambassador, the authorities in Minsk did not expect the EU to demonstrate unity. The threat of expulsion of ambassadors and the reduction in the number of diplomatic personnel was met by most EU countries with gestures of solidarity.
Last Saturday (October 3), a number of foreign ministers and the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy publicly expressed their surprise and condemned the measures taken by the Belarusian authorities. Most EU member states with diplomatic missions in Minsk have also recalled their ambassadors for consultations in their capitals.
Today there are no ambassadors of Germany, Sweden, Czech Republic and Latvia in Minsk. Several ambassadors were on their way to Minsk, but the Foreign Ministry stopped them. This is the case, for example, of the ambassadors of France and the United States. As a result, Lukashenka is leading Belarus to self-isolation, but doubts arise as to whether the source of such measures is in Minsk or, most likely, in Moscow.
Belarus must take into account the serious consequences from the whole of Europe due to its ill-considered gesture and in the event of possible subsequent attempts at escalation. In close coordination within the EU, and in particular with the German Foreign Ministry, which holds the EU Presidency, we will also take a decision on the return of ambassadors to Minsk.
Here the Belarusian authorities failed. They failed to implement the strategy of dividing Europe. This strategy (well known from the measures taken by Russia) failed, since the decision on sanctions against Belarus, despite Russian and Belarusian misinformation, was not the result of some particular stubbornness of Poland or Lithuania, but the reaction of the entire European community to the violation of basic human rights by the Belarusian regime. We know that Europe is ready to continue measures in this direction.
How should the Ministry of Foreign Affairs solve the problem of granting visas to citizens of Belarus after the departure of so many diplomats? Will visas be issued in the future?
We rather ask ourselves what arguments the Belarusian authorities will use to explain to their own citizens why they cannot visit relatives, go shopping, work or study. I also do not know how the authorities will explain that citizens cannot go to a country that has consistently supported them in recent years. How can you explain the gestures against the state, which a few months ago provided Belarusians with the greatest assistance in history in connection with the COVID pandemic? Poland sent 50 trucks with medical equipment, masks and disinfectants, more than 300 tons of aid, worth 12 million euros!).
Antoni Styrczula/ belsat.eu