VILNIUS – A physical barrier at Lithuania's border with Belarus is necessary, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said as she visited the border on Monday.
"In my view, it's necessary to have some kind of physical barrier. This has been shown to me very concretely here," Johansson told a news conference in the border town of Medininkai. "In my view, it's a good idea, actually, to build a physical barrier."
"Whether that could be directly financed by EU funds or not – it’s more difficult [to answer]," she said. "We have never financed any fence buildings, but we are financing a lot of other kind of equipment to make sure that the integrated border management is protective enough. And that's what we will discuss further".
Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite, who accompanied Johansson on the visit, said they agreed on "the need for Lithuania to build a physical barrier or a wall to repel this hybrid attack".
The Lithuanian State Border Guard Service has already worked out a plan for building a border fence, but initially it wants to install concertina wire along the entire border with Belarus, according to the minister.
Rustamas Liubajevas, the commander of the service, told the news conference that political decisions on the launching of the construction of a fence should be made by the end of the week.
"We have submitted our proposals to the Interior Ministry, and we have also discussed the implementation of these plans in the government's office, too," Liubajevas said.
"I think there will be a wider discussion this week, involving political parties. Political decisions are likely to be made by the end of this week as to when and how we will start installing that physical barrier," he added.
Johansson arrived in Lithuania on Sunday to assess the situation in the country that has been facing an unprecedented influx of irregular migrants in recent months.
On Monday, she visited the border with Belarus and met with President Gitanas Nauseda and Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte.
This year so far, almost 4,000 people have been caught in Lithuania after illegally crossing into the country from Belarus, compared to 81 in the whole of 2020.
Lithuania has declared a state-level extreme situation over the migration influx which it says is being orchestrated by the Belarusian regime.