"The Parliamentary Secretary underlined that the European Union is witnessing an unprecedented and blatant hybrid attack on the EU by the Alexander Lukashenko’s regime," said an account of the meeting from the Ministry.
"Representatives from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland drew the MEPs’ attention to the fact that Belarus is weaponising migration and using the citizens of third countries as their political tool. It was also underlined that the Belarusian regime is staging a vast disinformation campaign to mislead society, create confusion and discredit the values of a democratic community with a far-reaching aim of destabilizing the security situation in the region," it said.
“The regime has deliberately chosen to deploy hybrid warfare in order to counter our calls for democratic change in Belarus, and organising free and fair presidential elections. The aggressive behaviour of Belarusian authorities poses serious challenges to the security of Latvia and that of the EU. The aim of the Lukashenko regime is to destabilize the situation in the region in order to change the EU’s policy. Lukashenko wants us to lift our sanctions and to stop us from supporting the Belarusian civil society. An integral part of this attack is disinformation,” said Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica in her remarks.
The Parliamentary Secretary added that people from third countries such as Iraq are lured into Belarus by false promises. Those people are issued with official tourist visas, and the trips are organised by official Belarusian tourism companies, with the visitors being housed in Belarusian state hotels and later directed towards the EU border. Belarusian authorities are often taking away their travel documents and preventing those people from returning to their countries of origin as Latvia’s contacts, for example, with Iraq, have shown.
“This operation by the Lukashenko regime is very cynical, as it uses the most vulnerable people, women and children,” Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica said.
To curb the attack, the EU together with likeminded countries must keep building up pressure on Lukashenko’s regime with additional sanctions, including against Belavia, the country’s official airlines, the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out. EU Member States and institutions should continue to reach out to third countries and urge them to prevent their citizens from being dragged into this operation. The Parliamentary Secretary underlined that the EU must continue its support for civil society and independent media in Belarus.
As one of the lines of action, the Latvian Foreign Ministry’s Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the need for the EU to develop a "toolbox" which would make it possible to respond to all the diversity of hybrid threats and to build the EU’s resilience against them.