Conflict between Poland and Belarus problematic for EU: German daily

Minsk authorities continue their crackdown on the Polish national minority in Belarus, as Warsaw threatens with consequences - if needs be, on its own. This escalation is also forcing Brussels to make a difficult decision in the midst of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the German “Die Welt” daily wrote.

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“The actions of the dictator Alexander Lukashenko's regime against minority leaders raise concerns among Poles in Belarus. About 300,000 Poles and Belarusians of Polish origin live in the country. (...) What makes their fears not unfounded is not only the matter of arrests, but also other types of intimidation. For example, Belarusian journalist Hanna Liubakova reports that the school principals are asked to inform the authorities about the names of students learning Polish language,” the daily noted.

In reaction, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed to take “economic steps” to free “the regime's hostages.” In an interview with “Die Welt”, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said that “Lukashenko's escalation will not remain unanswered, that is for sure.”

Mr Przydacz is of the opinion that the EU cannot close its eyes. “As a community, we cannot tolerate it,” he added.

According to the daily, Alexander Lukashenko’s regime’s wave of repressions against the Polish minority is another stage of the conflict escalation in Belarus.

“This is a problem for the EU. Even when the Minsk regime brutally suppressed the protests last year, Europe reacted too late and agreed on relatively mild sanctions. Only 88 people and 7 organisations are currently on the sanction list,” the daily pointed out.

“Now Poland is demanding solidarity from the EU, at a time when the Commission is mainly dealing with the coronavirus crisis. However, without a rapid, coordinated approach within the EU, Poland is forced to act on its own. There is a threat of an escalation of the conflict between Warsaw and Minsk”, “Die Welt” wrote.

Last Friday in Minsk, the head of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), Andżelika Borys, and the head of the organisation's branch in Lida (Western Belarus), Irena Biernacka, heard charges of “inciting hatred” in a criminal case. A day earlier, charges were brought against other members of the ZPB leadership, Andrzej Poczobut and Maria Tiszkowska. The prosecutor's office interprets the activities of ZPB members as “rehabilitation of Nazism” which is punishable by imprisonment from five to twelve years.