What's New(s)

What's New(s) - Trapped at the border amid political row - 22/10/2021

What's New(s) - Trapped at the border amid political row   - 22/10/2021

What´s New(s)? La revue de presse anglophone – Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

A focus on the Polish-Belarusian borderland this week, where migrants have become stuck between a geopolitical row; and rejected by both countries. How has this issue evolved in what Deutsche Welle described as a new “humanitarian crisis” at the border region?

You'll find the script below:

Indeed, this borderland in Eastern Europe made the news this week, when migrants and asylum-seekers said to be illegally pushed back to Belarus by the Polish authorities without their asylum claim being processed. Tragic tales of migrants being pushed back and forth in the freezing cold grabbed the headlines of European media; such as the story of Iranian couple Neda and Abozar, who, according to Deutsche Welle, are starving and losing hope. POLITICO cited the Polish Border Guard on Twitter, who recorded almost 700 attempts of migrants trying to cross the border last Thursday - and a total of 10.000 since august. 1.500 migrants have been arrested, according to Flemish newspaper De Morgen. Euronews describes how the Polish authorities have accused Belarus and Russia of deliberately encouraging migrants to cross the border, and referred to the geopolitical row as a “hybrid warfare”. De Morgen says Belarus’ authorities, in their turn, accuse the West of chaos in the regions where the migrants came from. 

And what was the reaction of the local population? 

Well, at least a part of the population showed its outrage about the decision of the Polish parliament last Thursday, allowing migrants entering the country via Belarus to be expelled. The new law, accepted by the parliament, grants powers to local guards to reject applications without examination and ban migrants from re-entering the country for a period of six months, up to even 3 years, explained Sarah Huemer in POLITICO. According to Euronews, thousands of Poles marched on Sunday in solidarity with the migrants trying to cross the border. They condemn the Polish authorities for violating human rights and for imposing the state of emergency at the border, thereby preventing human right workers to enter the area. According a report of Deutsche Welle, local citizens and networks of activists are – even if undercover – still trying to help the migrants, even though they say they do not have the means to assist the increasing numbers of migrants coming in. “A tsunami is coming in, and we can just catch the drops” testified one of the activists to the newspaper.

But there was another clash with Poland that made the headlines: the tensions between von der Leyen and Prime Minister Morawiecki in light of the ongoing discussions on the rule of law. What happened this week?

Indeed, while the European Parliament was meeting in Strasbourg, the debate heated with what POLITICO described as a “sharp clash” between the Commission president and the Polish Prime Minister in a debate on the rule of law principles. According to France 24, the public conflict underlined the seriousness of the issue, which both the EU and Warsaw say threatens the cohesion of the bloc. Von der Leyen firmly stated that the Commission, as the guardian of the EU-treaties, “will act” to rein Poland in. Morawiecki, in his turn, said he will not let the EU blackmail Poland with financial penalties. “The EU is exceeding its limits”, he stated, cited by Italian newspaper La Stampa. According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Poland has used Tuesday’s debate to heat up the leaders’ summit on Thursday. Dutch NRC correspondent Clara van der Wiel went further, claiming that the Polish Prime Minister has surely brought the conflict to the next level. “Polish prime minister escalates war of words with EU,'' concluded Daniel Boffey in The Guardian.

Then moving on to yet another topic. A statement from a Basque leader regarding terrorism has taken the spotlight in newspapers in Spain. 

Yes, indeed, the leader of the Basque left-wing nationalist party, Arnaldo Otegi declared that ETA terror deaths ‘should never have happened’. Ten years have had to pass since the terrorist group ETA ceased its activity for such a movement to be made. Something that Luis Aizpeolea highlights in El País as an important step in the evolution towards normality. Along the same lines, El Diario defines the declarations of nationalist leader Otegi as a way of 'disavowing ETA' with which they seek to 'normalize their political role'. The Basque daily Berria believes that this statement could help to find a solution to the situation of the Basque prisoners.

And was this issue picked also up by other media outlets in Europe?

Well, obviously In France, this affair was closely followed. France 24 stared that 10 years later, the wounds are still open. Libération underlines that Otegi's words are the first unambiguous apology from the nationalist left, since on other occasions they had only addressed the civilian victims of the attacks, and no other figures, such as policemen or murdered politicians. For The Guardian, this apology by the Basque leader has gone further than the one stated by the terrorist group itself when it announced its definitive dissolution 3 years ago.

Image par Kacper Pempel / REUTERS