Op-Ed Commentary by Chris Devonshire-Ellis – August 23rd, 2021
Political Point Scoring And Finger Pointing Are Taking Priority Over Basic Human Compassion
While the UK is maybe struggling after Brexit, it appears the European Union is also facing an existential crisis. The inhumane argument between Belarus and Poland concerning the plight of Afghan refugees on the border is a disgraceful betrayal of human rights from an EU national administration eager to criticize others, but tolerant of its own abuses.
The Polish authorities have denied refugee status to 32 Afghan refugees who are now stuck in a strip of land between the Belarus and Polish border. With no facilities this group has had to resort to drinking water from a small stream. They have been stuck there for three weeks with Polish border guards refusing them entry. Some of the group require medical attention.
The situation has come about because Belarus, under the leadership of Alexander Lukashenko, has refused to cooperate with the EU over refugee and related matters following EU intervention and destabilizing of his regime. I know Belarus well and am married to a Belarussian national. While there is no doubt the Lukashenko is beyond his sell-by date, it is also apparent that the EU has been interfering with its internal affairs and has made the country more, not less fractured.
As a result of Lukashenko’s withdrawal of refugee cooperation, Poland has retaliated with the exact same behavior. Stuck in the middle are 32 cold and frightened Afghanis, shorn of compassion. What the EU doesn’t recognize is that in parroting Lukashenko’s behavior, they are painting themselves with the same brush. It is a race to the bottom in human rights and compassion.
It is a similar situation in Latvia, another EU nation, where 41 Kurds are experiencing the same situation.
A third EU nation is also behaving in inconsistent ways that provide question marks over its stance on human rights. I am reminded here by the behavior of the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, who has decided, under full knowledge of what would happen, to establish mutual Representative Offices with Taiwan. That has led to a row with China and what trade there was between Lithuania and China has now dried up. It won’t be replaced by Lithuanian trade with Taiwan, that is for sure. Landsbergis represents the disturbing new breed of EU politician who, mindful of a potential future career in Brussels rather than provincial Vilnius, feels it justifiable to poke a stick at a Tiger and then complain that “it roars!”
Neither is Landsbergis consistent. He was quick to sign an EU statement accusing China of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Yet his own Government has refused to provide any funding for the restoration of the historic, Lukiškės Mosque in Vilnius, which has been in the city since the 1830’s and dates back to the Tartars. As a result, the small population of Vilnius Muslims have reached out to Saudi Arabia for funding. Landsbergis doesn’t care about Muslims. He just wants to be seen to be ‘strong on China’.
Poland and Latvian politicians want to be seen as ‘strong on Belarus’. None are cooperative with Russia, to the extent that Russia will soon export more goods to Asia than provide supplies to its neighbors.
The EU is becoming insular, xenophobic and is losing its dignity. Instead of ‘being strong Lukashenko’, EU countries such as Poland and Latvia should be showing what compassion means. Let the Afghans and Kurds in. If not, the politicians that would also deny the basic human rights to people in need are no better than the people they claim to despise. If they get further into shaping the political nature and direction of Brussels then it will become a parallel bloc similar to the Soviet Union in creed, an irony and danger in Brussels that many have not yet woken up too. Is that an EU its citizens really want? Because the signs are there that these roads have in the past led to totalitarianism. More compassion, less finger-pointing and political points scoring are a better measure of a free and tolerant society than what is happening in parts of the European Union at present.
Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal commentary, belong solely to the contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Asia Briefing Limited or Dezan Shira & Associates.