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Draft act on the construction of the security of the Polish border with Belarus. Second reading in the Sejm, after work in committees

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Late Wednesday evening in the Sejm, the second reading of the government’s bill on the construction of security facilities on the Polish-Belarusian border began. Earlier that day, the parliamentary committees voted in favor of adopting the draft with amendments. It is to be voted on on Thursday.

On Wednesday, before 10.00 p.m., the Sejm started its second reading – that is, a parliamentary debate in the plenary hall – of the government’s bill on the construction of state border security. It is about building a “dam” on the Polish-Belarusian border. As PAP found out, voting on the bill will take place on Thursday.

During the evening discussion, the Civic Coalition submitted a motion to reject the project.


Soldiers building a fence on the Polish-Belarusian border near the village of Nomiki. Photo from 25/08/2021Marcin Onufryjuk / PAP

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Draft adopted at first reading with amendments. Second reading on Wednesday

The draft was submitted by the Ministry of the Interior and Administration and adopted on Tuesday evening by the Council of Ministers by circulation, and on the same day it was submitted to the Sejm. It is dealt with urgently.

On Wednesday afternoon, the project was dealt with by the parliamentary committees of national defense and administration and internal affairs, which conducted its first reading. It was voted along with the previously adopted amendments. 51 deputies voted – 35 were in favor, 16 against, no one abstained. Previously, editorial corrections were introduced to the draft, proposed by representatives of the legislative office.

Earlier, the Speaker of the Sejm, Elżbieta Witek, at the Wednesday conference said that if the report was prepared, the second reading and voting could take place on Thursday. As PAP found out, the voting will take place on the next day in the voting block between 5 pm and 7 pm. However, the schedule does not yet include the draft among the items provided for in the voting block.

KO MP: This is not a perfect security

During the afternoon discussion at the joint committee meeting, the speaker was, among others, Member of the Civic Coalition Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska. – We have no doubts here that these billion six hundred million will be spent, but it will not bring any spectacular results. Even if this fence were to function, the experiences of other fences in other countries (…) show that it is not a perfect protection – she said.

Deputy of the Left, Andrzej Rozenek, paying attention to the estimated amount of dam construction – PLN 1 billion 615 million – asked, among other things, whether an accurate cost estimate had been prepared. He also asked how the security contractor would be selected.

Deputy Minister Wąsik: we want to start working as soon as possible

Maciej Wąsik, deputy head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration, told deputies that the border barrier would consist of a “serious terrain obstacle” and a perimeter system. – The experience of many other countries, including many European countries, with migration crises proves that this solution is the most effective – he argued. – That is why we want to apply them on the Polish-Belarusian border. If it is necessary, I understand, there will be a decision by the government or the Sejm that such strengthening will also be used in other parts of the border, but of course we do not have such premises yet, he added.

Wąsik also assured that the estimated cost of dam construction is the maximum level of expenses. – Of course, we will do it in a transparent manner, but not applying the Public Procurement Law due to deadlines – he said.

He also assessed that “we have an emergency, extraordinarily emergency situation”. – We want to start operations as soon as possible, we want to build this strengthening as soon as possible – he added. The deputy minister announced that the construction of the dam will begin immediately after the regulations on which the joint committees are currently working will enter into force. – That is why this law has an urgent procedure and I am asking the opposition to consider it as soon as possible (…) – he added. The draft assumes that the act will enter into force the day after its announcement.

The deputy minister of internal affairs also talked about temporary fortifications that the military had already put up on the border with Belarus. This – in his opinion – “would be absolutely sufficient if we did not have an opponent on the other side who would support the migration activities.”

– Belarusian services support illegal migration in a completely different way than at the beginning. In the beginning, it was showing the way, leading to the border. Today it is enabling the transition. Providing devices, ladders, scissors, finding the right moment and the right time – said Wąsik.

The deputy head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration noted that there was a moment when it was possible to talk about the “seasonality” of the problem. – The analysis shows that, unfortunately, thanks to some incidents, some situations on the border, this path was indicated to Alyaksandr Lukashenka as a way of effectively exerting influence on Poland and the European Union. He did not have such an influence in Lithuania or Latvia – he added.

Deputy Minister Wąsik did not rule out adopting Zimoch’s amendment at the next stage of work

During the committee meeting, Tomasz Zimoch (Poland 2050) proposed four amendments to the draft, concerning, inter alia, issues of public information, extending the composition of the team for the preparation and implementation of state border security, which is to monitor the investment, and the issue of presenting information on the course and use of the investment to the Sejm by government representatives. The amendments were rejected by the committee, MP Zimoch proposed them as minority motions.

Deputy Minister Wąsik did not rule out that at a later stage of the legislative work, support may be obtained by one of Zimoch’s amendments, providing for the Sejm to be informed by the Ministry of the Interior and the Border Guard about this investment. – I treat it as an attempt to increase parliamentary supervision over the course of this investment and I understand it – said Wąsik. He added that in the current version the amendment is underdeveloped, but “in the second reading, if an MP prepares something like this, it would be worth taking into account”.

Draft act on the construction of a security on the Polish-Belarusian border

According to the draft, the act will define the rules for the preparation and implementation of security – barriers – on the Polish border constituting the external border of the EU. The investment will be a public goal. Its estimated cost in the Regulatory Impact Assessment is PLN 1 615 million. The expenses will be covered from the state budget. This amount includes PLN 1.500 million for the construction of a physical barrier and PLN 115 million for technical devices (perimetry). Formally, the investor will be the Commander in Chief of the Border Guard, who will also be able to appoint an attorney.

The draft stipulates that separate regulations will not be applied to the investment, including, inter alia, construction law, water law or environmental law. According to the designers, this solution will enable the effective and quick implementation of the investment. No decisions, permits, opinions and approvals will be required. At the request of the Border Guard Commander-in-Chief, the relevant authorities in these matters will, however, present a position or provide support in relation to the investment. The Public Procurement Law will not apply to contracts related to the construction of a barrier. Orders will be controlled by the Central Anticorruption Bureau.

Act on the construction of a barrier and a possible ban on entry

One of the draft provisions of the act also provides that the voivode, upon request or after consulting the commander of the Border Guard unit, will be able to prohibit staying in a specific area not wider than 200 meters from the state border. This prohibition will not apply to owners of real estate in this area and people who are allowed to stay in this zone by the commander of the branch. The project also provides for the possibility of expropriating the property necessary for the construction of the barrier.

“The existing owners will be entitled to all the rights necessary to obtain fair compensation from the State Treasury” – assured in the RIA.

Migrants on the Polish-Belarusian border

The justification of the project stated that for months Poland has been experiencing increasing migratory pressure on the Polish-Belarusian section of the state border. As indicated, the influx of third-country nationals takes place with the support of Belarusian state services. These activities, underlined, are hybrid in nature, and their aim is to destabilize the situation in Poland and the EU.

The head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration, Mariusz Kamiński, after the government had approved the project, assessed that despite the provision of additional staff support for the Border Guard troops, assistance from soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces and the police, and the use of temporary installations, the number of attempts to cross the Polish-Belarusian border is not decreasing.

– Therefore, urgent measures should be taken to build a solid, high dam, also equipped with a monitoring and traffic detection system. Such technical security of the border has already proved successful in other countries as an effective solution in the fight against illegal migration. It will also work for us – he argued.

Main photo source: Marcin Onufryjuk / PAP

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