NATO, EU leaders stress 'solidarity' with Baltics amid border tensions
Heads of the EU commission and NATO visited Lithuania and Latvia on Sunday to stress unity with the counties on the European Union's borders which have been subject to a "hybrid attack" from Belarus in recent months.
Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen traveled to the Baltics "to demonstrate solidarity with NATO Allies and EU member states in the Baltic region, and to further strengthen the cooperation between NATO and the EU," a NATO statement said.
In Vilnius, they met with President Gitanas Nauseda and Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonyte.
Speaking at a press conference, Von der Leyen said: "Lukashenko has failed in his bid to undermine EU unity and solidarity."
Lukashenko has failed in his bid to undermine EU unity and solidarity.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 28, 2021
But we should learn the lessons. Our opponents will stop at nothing to destabilise us.
To respond to such events, it is important that the EU and @NATO work hand in hand. https://t.co/ZhND0TcR6S
The EU Commission president also wrote on Twitter after the meeting: "Lithuania has been responding to this attack humanely and firmly. The EU stands by your side and supports you to manage your border."
Von der Leyen said the EU will triple border management funds for Lithuania, Poland and Latvia to €200 million in 2021 and 2022.
Later in the day, the pair visited Riga and met with Prime Minister Krišjanis Karinš.
Karinš said discussions focused on the latest developments at the EU external border with Belarus, regional security situation and the EU - NATO cooperation.
Von der Leyen stressed unity with Latvia and tweeted after the meeting: "When one of our Member States is attacked, the EU stands united."
When one of our Member States is attacked, the EU stands united.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 28, 2021
We are with Latvia in these challenging times, providing human and financial support. pic.twitter.com/TeR3paEa4f
Public broadcaster LSM reported that Stoltenberg said discussions had been "substantive" and condemned the "cynical and inhumane exploitation of vulnerable people which aims to put pressure on neighboring countries."
Stoltenberg and von der Leyen did not visit Tallinn.
Thousands of migrants have tried to cross the Belarusian border into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland in recent months. EU officials say Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko is responsible for facilitating and enabling irregular migration, calling it "hybrid aggression".
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Editor: Helen Wright