Isamaa MP to premier: Rapid action needed on Lithuania migrant crisis

Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: ERR

Opposition member of parliament Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has called for steps in dealing with the continuing migrant crisis on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border in order both to help the southernmost Baltic State and to head off anything similar happening on Estonia's borders.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform), Reinsalu, a former foreign minister, said that he was: "Appealing to the Government of the Republic regarding the hybrid crisis in Lithuania."

The arrival of over 4,000 migrants illegally into Lithuania in recent weeks has been widely referred to by Estonian politicians and experts as a type of hybrid warfare, coming as it does after months of deteriorating relations between the two countries, and between Belarus and the EU and West as a whole.

"It is commendable that Estonia has supported Lithuania with both equipment and staff. The nature of this crisis is such that, taking into consideration the near future and potential Western Russia confrontations, the probability that Estonia will be attacked in this way is realistic," Reinsalu continued.

Estonia, as a member of the UN Security Council elected from the Central and Eastern European region, should raise the matter at that level, Reinsalu went on.

He said:"Given the massive human rights violations that can be classified as crimes against humanity in terms of their volume, Estonia should initiate consultations at the UNSC based on the fact that representatives of the regime should also bear legal responsibility under international law. A draft proposal of the Security Council for the establishment of a tribunal for crimes against humanity by Belarus should be launched."

Reinsalu was foreign minister when Estonia won its two-year, non-permanent seat on the UNSC, which expires at the end of this year.

Reinsalu also touted convening of an extraordinary EU Council, in conjunction with Lithuania, an initiative which he says would impose additional pressure measures on the regime.

Another measure and one which Isamaa's sole MEP, Riho Terras, recently called for, would be to invoke NATO's Article 4.

Reinsalu said: "It is necessary to launch a discussion at the North Atlantic Council on consultations under NATO Article 4. We should also strongly support, in our diplomacy, the US, the EU countries and the [European ] commission putting strong pressure on the first countries of origin of migrants receiving development aid to block the movement of people to Belarus."

The situation is now critical, he added, meaning Estonia must support Lithuania, secure its border and legal tools, and put much stronger international pressure on Belarus. "The unity of the state's institutions would be emphasized if the Government of the Republic proposed to the president to convene the National Defense Council to discuss the hybrid crisis," Reinsalu added.

The MP also suggested at home accelerating significantly Estonia's ongoing border infrastructure project, along the maximum 130km of land border, in Estonia's southeast.

Estonia does not share a border with Belarus, but the southeastern border converges with that of the Russian Federation and with Latvia, both of which border with Belarus.

Most of the rest of Estonia's eastern border is made up of waterways, which could also be protected via floating barriers, he said.

Communication and cooperation with both Latvia and Lithuania were vital here, he noted in the open letter, while the legal framework and the ability to deport people if necessary was also key.

"We should change our legislation in such a way as to allow those crossing the border illegally to be sent back, in the event of a hybrid attack, and to handle expulsions quickly," he wrote.

"A cooperation project should be launched with the other Baltic states to establish procedural centers in an agreed third country, similar to Danish migration law. The supplementation of international conventions with reservations for such hybrid attacks should also be initiated," Reinsalu added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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