President: Estonia is ready, should situation on border change
Following a meeting of the National Defense Council on Tuesday morning, President Alar Karis said that although the arrival of migrants at the Estonian border is currently unlikely, the country has prepared for various scenarios.
Karis admitted that the activity of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is concerning and poses a security threat to the whole of Europe.
"Of course, the European Union and our allies cannot retreat under such pressure. Belarus is trying to arm migrants, thousands of people have arrived there, and continues to push them across the border," the president said.
"This is against international law and simple humanity - people trapped at the border are being used to serve the political goals of the Lukashenko regime. Of course, neither Estonia, our allies nor the European Union can retreat under such pressure."
Karis said it is necessary to be prepared for the escalation of the border crisis. "We must continue to support Poland, Lithuania and Latvia resolutely because an attack on their borders is also an attack on our borders," he said.
Although the mass influx of migrants to Estonia is currently unlikely, he said, the state has thought through and prepared for the number of illegal border crossings to increase.
"At the recent meeting, the prime minister, the minister of the interior and the minister of defense gave an overview of the readiness of our agencies. We have assessed different possible scenarios and developed a number of steps that can be taken. Although the situation is alarming, I am confident that we are ready for rapid change and various scenarios," Karis said.
According to the head of state, the unanimous decision of the EU member states last night to move forward with the imposition of sanctions on Belarus is a clear response to the Lukashenko regime.
"These sanctions need to be enforced quickly. We know that the sanctions work, they have a clear impact," Karis said.
The president considered it very important that the European Union make diplomatic efforts towards countries of origin and transit to stop the migration of people used by Lukashenko in the hybrid attack.
"I am pleased that the talks initiated by the European Union with the airlines and countries used for transit flights to Minsk are showing positive signs. This gives hope that Lukashenko's actions cannot continue indefinitely. There is also strong political support for resolving the situation from other European heads of state and government," the president said.
According to Karis, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are Estonia's neighbors, friends and NATO allies, who have the country's unwavering support.
"Therefore, we in NATO must also pay close attention to what is happening and, if necessary, strengthen NATO's position in the region," the president said.
The National Defense Council also discussed the increase in the amount of the Russian armed forces near the Ukrainian border.
"Such unusual movement is very worrying and we are monitoring the situation closely. Here, too, we must be prepared for rapid and unexpected developments," Karis said.
Prime minister: Estonia's security starts in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Poland, Latvia and Lithuania are currently protecting the EU's external borders.
"The hybrid attack by Belarus has reached a dangerous escalation. Estonia's security starts in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. It must be emphasized that migrants have arrived in Belarus legally and are currently seeking to enter the European Union illegally," she said.
Kallas said that it is important that allies and EU institutions stand up for Poland and Lithuania.
"The EU has decided to impose additional sanctions on Belarus. As Lukashenko is a dictator, he only understands force. Therefore, EU sanctions are a good measure for showing strength," she said.
"Diplomatic pressure on the countries from which people are coming to Belarus has also intensified. The focus of our diplomatic work is to get Lukashenko to allow UN aid organizations into his country's territory," Kallas said.
The prime minister said the Estonian border is well guarded and there is no direct threat to the Estonian border.
"We will continue strengthened control at the borders and we are ready to deal with illegal border crossers," Kallas said, adding that the erection of temporary barriers on the eastern border under an accelerated procedure has also been discussed.
Kallas said that Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin are trying to show that the European Union is divided, but this is not the case.
The National Defense Council, convened by Estonian President Alar Karis, gathered on Tuesday morning to discuss the hybrid crisis caused by Belarus as well as the regional security situation.
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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste