Mihkelson: Who gave Merkel a mandate to speak to Lukashenko?

Marko Mihkelson (Reform), chair of the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee, which joined counterparts in several other countries in signing the Nord Stream 2 statement.
Marko Mihkelson (Reform), chair of the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee, which joined counterparts in several other countries in signing the Nord Stream 2 statement. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, on Wednesday, criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel's talks with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko about the migrant crisis at the Belarus-EU border.

Speaking to ETV's evening current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera", the Reform MP said: "I and many [others] do not know under whose mandate Angela Merkel is holding these talks. She is the outgoing chancellor and, in that sense, there are many questions about the process."

On Wednesday, Merkel held a second phone call with Lukashenko in three days. This is the first time a western leader has communicated with him since the presidential election in 2020, which is widely regarded as rigged.

Mihkelson was also critical of the first phone call on Monday, calling it "disappointing".

Last night, the MP said migrants on the Belarusian-Polish border near the Kuznica checkpoint in Belarus should be helped but through the United Nations.

He questioned if it was necessary for Merkel to intervene in the process.

"Is it necessary to have talks at the level of the German chancellor with a person who committed a coup last year and who is not recognized as head of state by leaders of the European Union?" he asked. 

"I deeply doubt it, and I do not see that such negotiations with a dictator would bring us much closer to the result we want in the current situation."

MEP Riho Terras (Isamaa), a former chief of Defense of Estonia, also criticized the move.

"It is unacceptable that Merkel went solo behind the EU's back to talk with 'Mr Lukashenko'. This only sows discord in the EU and this is exactly what Lukashenko is trying to achieve. Appallingly reckless behaviour!" he wrote on social media on Thursday.

On Tuesday, after Merkel's first call with Lukashenko, Estonia's President Alar Karis and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said the EU's unity on Belarus needs to be preserved.

Karis said: "The call was somewhat surprising. But the line of unity must be maintained. Europe is united."

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) has said Estonia was briefed in advance by Germany that the phone call would take place.


Lithuanian-Belarusian border. Source: Erik Peinar

The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko and the security services cracked down on opposition protestors and civil society following the presidential election in August 2020.

More were applied after the forced landing of a Ryanair plane flying in Belarusian airspace in May leading to the arrest of an opposition journalist at Minsk Aiport.

In retaliation, Lukashenko threatened to send "migrants and drugs" to Europe.

Soon after, migrants, mostly from the middle east, started trying to cross the Lithuanian-Belarusian border. The situation then expanded to Latvia and Poland and has continued for months. All three countries have been pushing the migrants back into Belarus.

For the last 10 days, thousands of migrants have been stuck on the Belarusian side of the Belarus-Poland border in freezing temperatures. On Monday, for the first time since the presidential election, a western leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, spoke with Lukashenko.

Lithuania, Latvia and Poland have been the biggest supporters of the Belarusian opposition movement. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to, and now resides in, Vilnius after the election last year.

Estonia, which does not border Belarus, has been offering support to Lithuania, Latvia and Poland and raising awareness of the situation.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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