VILNIUS – Lithuania will continue seeking EU funding for the construction of a physical barrier on its border with Belarus, Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite says.
"I believe we need to work in this direction. We have to prove and provide arguments why it is important. Despite the absence of decisions right now, we have already made our won decisions, and we will have a physical barrier, it is being constructed, and work is underway," the minister told BNS on Monday.
"I have seen myself how that fence, that concertina looks like. It shows that we will have this barrier over the next year," she added.
Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU leaders the EU would not fund the construction of barriers on the borders to block illegal migrants. She said that there's a longstanding view in the European Commission and in the European parliament that "there will be no funding of barbed wire and walls" on the border.
Nevertheless, the EC president recognized that the recent influx migrants via the EU's eastern borders was a hybrid attack being carried out by the Belarusian government.
Bilotaite says "there's agreement" with Brussels regarding changes in its migration policy, adding that it's necessary to seek funding for the construction of the physical barrier.
"If we take a look at the whole position, so it's been clearly said that they understand and recognize it to be a hybrid attack and that it's not just illegal migration. There's agreement that changes in the migration policy and the whole legal system are necessary," the minister said.
"Of course, we heard the position that there are doubts over the physical barrier, but we need to stress that Lithuania has made a decision and is building the physical barrier and will do that. I believe we will continue working consistently for the physical barrier to be recognized as one of those key measures, and we will also seek funding as well," Bilotaite said.
Almost 4,200 irregular migrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally so far this year. A slightly larger number of attempts at illegal crossings have been foiled since August 2.
Vilnius accuses the Minsk regime of orchestrating the unprecedented migration influx, calling it "hybrid aggression".