VILNIUS – Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite says an agreement was reached during an informal meeting of EU home affairs ministers in the Czech capital on Monday on the concept of migration instrumentalization and a border protection standard.
"The Schengen Code will include the concept of migration instrumentalization, which did not exist before. There's also a standard for border protection in general is emerging (...) and the whole concept of border protection infrastructure is being consolidated," the minister told BNS.
"It's probably not in the way we had hoped as we sought maximum support for the concept of a physical barrier, but it's a step forward," she added.
The Czech EU presidency can step up changes in the EU's legal regulation and ensure an effective response in cases of migration instrumentalization and hybrid attacks, the minister said.
"We're happy that the Czech Republic is taking over the presidency as we did hear confirmation from the minister himself that they are getting back to these issues and will focus on them and will seek results, because the fact that the EU is getting late with decisions today means that we are giving weapons to the Belarusian regime as well as to the Russian regime. (...) This situation is certainly not acceptable," Bilotaite said.
A total of almost 4,200 migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, crossed into Lithuania illegally from Belarus last year. Lithuania maintains that the influx of migrants from Belarus is a hybrid attack orchestrated by the Minsk regime.
Lithuania managed to halt the flow of migrants when it introduced the pushback policy in early August, 2021, drawing criticism from Amnesty International and the European Court of Justice. The latter ruled on June 30, that Lithuania's legislation that does not allow illegal migrants to apply for asylum and allows them to be detained simply for entering the country illegally runs counter to European directives.
Bilotaite, however, says Lithuania must defend itself and will not back down from its decisions on migrants.
Also on Monday, EU home affairs ministers also discussed security and aid issues with their Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts.
Bilotaite also told BNS ministers agreed on EU countries' assistance in demining Ukraine's territory.
"Today, we're pleased that Commissioner Ylva Johansson (...) will also seek to ensure that we have the coordination of humanitarian demining at the European level," the Lithuanian interior minister said. "We see leadership emerging from the European Commission on this issue."
In Prague, Bilotaite also signed an agreement with Slovakia on cooperation at the border with Ukraine to prevent the illegal entry of weapons into the EU.
"This agreement between Slovakia and Lithuania is a symbol of our togetherness, cooperation and mutual assistance," the minister underlined.