ESTONIAN PRESIDENT, DEFMIN, INTERIOR MINISTER DISCUSS CRISIS IN LITHUANIA
Estonian Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet held a video meeting with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts Artis Pabriks and Arvydas Anusauskas on Thursday to discuss possible steps for improving security in the region in relation to the hybrid operation targeted at Lithuania. Laanet stated that Lithuania is under a hybrid attack and it constitutes a security crisis that directly affects the Baltic states and the whole region more broadly. The Estonian defense forces have already provided practical help to Lithuania and, according to Laanet, they are to continue it by sending their defense forces’ unmanned aerial vehicles to Lithuania. Estonia is also ready to provide support in the conduct of tenders. As an initial measure, Estonia allocated 100 kilometers of barrier wire to Lithuania from the stocks of its defense forces to enable Lithuania to strengthen its border more rapidly. Estonia is also assisting Lithuania in its efforts to acquire supplementary amounts of said wire. The Lithuanian minister of defense, Arvydas Anusauskas, declared that the current situation on the border is no ordinary migration crisis, it is a hybrid war against the stability of the European Union, NATO and particularly of the Baltic states that requires a uniform and coordinated reaction from the Baltic states. He also expressed his appreciation to Estonia and Latvia for the solidarity and unity in the face of these threats. The defense ministers jointly acknowledged the severity of the security crisis and decided to further improve the coordination of their activities and response. Around 2,500 refugees have arrived in Lithuania over the past month, which is nearly 33 times more than last year and 66 times more than in 2019.
BELARUS LEADER IS READY TO INVITE RUSSIAN TROOPS “IF NECESSARY”
Belarus’ authoritarian president said Friday he’s prepared to invite Russian troops into the country if such a move is necessary to ensure the security of both Belarus and Russia, even though he stressed having dealt with last year’s anti-government protests without involving other countries’ armed forces. In September, the two ex-Soviet nations are scheduled to conduct large-scale joint military exercises. Until recently, Lukashenko’s government had resisted Moscow’s attempts to expand military presence in Belarus and rejected requests to open an airbase and station additional troops in the country. But amid the political crisis that unfolded in Belarus after Lukashenko’s reelection to a sixth term in August 2020 was met with huge protests, Russia promised its neighbor military support and allocated a $1.5 billion loan for Belarus’ ailing economy. The United States and the European Union have imposed multiple sanctions targeting the Belarusian leadership and key sectors of its economy in the wake of the crisis. For the first time, he threatened with the deployment of Russian troops to Belarus. Lukashenko has accused the West of attempting to orchestrate a revolution in the country he has ruled with an iron fist for decades and of plotting a coup, including by pressuring Belarus with sanctions. His challenger in the election fled to Lithuania and Lithuanian officials say authorities in Belarus are now flooding Lithuania’s border with migrants to put that EU nation under pressure. The Belarusian president called for further action against the country’s human rights groups, alleging that behind them are foreign masterminds, and said government pressure on independent media would continue. Belarusian authorities in recent weeks have ramped up the pressure against non-governmental organizations and independent media, conducting more than 200 raids of offices and apartments of activists and journalists this month alone, according to the Viasna human rights center. The Belarusian Association of Journalists said raids and detentions targeting reporters continued Friday in Minsk and other cities. A total of 28 Belarusian journalists remain in custody either awaiting trial or serving their sentences. Journalist groups on Thursday demanded that authorities give urgent hospital care to a leading journalist who has been in pre-trial detention.
POLAND’S PRESIDENT SEES NEED FOR LAW CHANGE AFTER EU CENSURE
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said Friday he sees the need for changes to his country’s law on disciplining judges, in a significant shift in tone on an issue that has brought a tense and drawn-out spat with European Union authorities. Duda was commenting on letters from the head of Poland’s top court appealing to him and other senior figures to initiate changes that would remove flaws in Polish legislation and bring it into line with EU law. His words struck a different tone from the government’s insistence in recent years that the disciplinary procedures were only for the good of the judiciary and that the EU had no say on the organization of Poland’s or any other EU member’s justice system. Four letters written to Duda, to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and to the speakers of the two parliament chambers by the Supreme Court s first president, Judge Małgorzata Manowska, asking for changes to the law, were published on the court’s website Friday. The EU Court of Justice said earlier this month that the way Poland is disciplining its judges undermines judicial independence and contravenes EU law, because it is politicized. It has told Poland’s government, which drew up the regulations, to immediately suspend the disciplinary body at the Supreme Court and introduce changes, under threat of financial and other sanctions. Adding to the growing conflict with the EU over Poland’s rule of law and organization of the judiciary, the government has ignored the injunctions, arguing it has sole responsibility for the justice system. The four figures have the powers to propose and enact legislation. Manowska appealed to them to protect the “common good that is Poland” and said that the judicial dispute with the EU has paralyzed disciplinary proceedings. Poland’s Constitutional Court ruled last week that temporary injunctions issued by the EU court regarding the national judiciary were nonbinding. One of them was an injunction for the suspension of the body disciplining high judges. However, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last week that he would not exclude the possibility of a review of the Disciplinary Chamber, saying it has not met all the expectations placed in it. Days earlier, he met with the head of the EU Council, Ursula von der Leyen, for talks that included Poland’s judiciary. A number of Poland’s judges critical of the right-wing government have been suspended under the disciplining procedure, but the suspensions have been declared illegal by some lower courts, who questioned the authority of the disputed disciplinary body.