Poland to impose border control within EU during NATO summit, fences rising in heart of Europe

Polish border guards patrol © Peter Andrews
Poland will put in place border controls with Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania this summer. The move is claimed to provide better security during a NATO summit and a visit by Pope Francis.

The measure comes just as Austria is introducing border controls with Italy to curb an expected influx of asylum seekers. Poland, however, says its actions have nothing to do with refugees, even though the Polish government is highly skeptical about Brussels’ plan to tackle the problem.

“Please, make no connection with the situation in southern Europe. Reintroducing control on our border is necessary for the security of the Alliance summit and World Youth Day,” Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said, announcing the initiative.

The border guards will “prevent people, who may violate public order or be a security threat from entering Poland,” according to the ministry.

NATO is holding a summit in the Polish capital Warsaw on July 8-9. World Youth Day, an international Catholic event that the Pope is to attend, will take place in Krakow on July 25-31. Poland’s border control will be in place between July 4 and August 2. Security checks in Polish ports and airports during that time will be tighter than usual too.

The Austrian government said its plan to re-introduce border controls with Italy at the alpine Brenner checkpoint will come into operation in late May. The move is designed to stem an expected spike of asylum seekers, seeking an alternative route to northern Europe due to travel restrictions between Greece and the Balkan countries. The plan led to massive clashes between Italian activists and Austrian police.

Austria is currently erecting a 250-meter fence on its side of the border. Italian officials criticized the move, which Rome said would exacerbate the humanitarian situation in southern Europe. The criticism came from both the Italian government and opposition parties with the exception of the Euroskeptic North League, which praised Austria for protecting its citizens.

READ MORE: Austria to deploy troops at Alpine border to stop refugees coming through Italy

Vienna reintroduced strict border controls on the border with Hungary this week, citing an increasing number of incoming refugees.

“We have to react to this situation weekly to prevent criminality and smuggling of immigrants. In the coming weeks we are going to support our Hungarian colleagues. The controls will run all day," Austrian National Police Director-Deputy Werner Fasching said, explaining the measure that will remain in place for at least several weeks.

READ MORE: Austrian far-right candidate well ahead in 1st round of presidential vote

The Austrian public is increasingly skeptical of the way the EU is handling the refugee crisis, as seen by the unexpected success of right-wing FPO politician Norbert Hofer during the first round of presidential elections last week. Hofer came top with around 36 percent of the vote and will compete against the Green Party’s Alexander Van der Bellen for the ceremonial high office in the second round.

The Freedom Party, which put forward Hofer’s candidacy, said the vote marked a new era for Austrian politics.