On Monday, the Cabinet has approved a proposal by the Ministry of the Interior to install a physical barrier on the border with Belarus. It will be 508 km long, and is planned to be completed in 2022. The Government has also decided that the project will be carried out by the EPSO-G group of companies run by the Ministry of Energy.
‘A physical barrier is necessary for us to repel the hybrid attack carried out by the Belarusian regime against Lithuania and the entire EU. A company with experience in projects of this scale has been selected to manage and implement this object of state importance. Transparency and speed are the main priorities in the installation of the physical barrier,’ has emphasised Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė.
It is planned that the height of the protective fence must be at least 3 metres, the fence must be made of metal and resistant to changing natural conditions, and part of it must be laid into the ground. The preliminary cost of the project is EUR152 million.
‘Building the fence as soon as possible is our top priority now. This is not a simple fence, but a defensive wall protecting the entire European Union and us. The first steps have been taken, and we will continue the work: the law has been passed, the project manager has been appointed, and we will allocate as much money as needed. We will build the fence together with the Armed Forces, Riflemen’s Union, businesses, and if necessary, the Lithuanian people will help. We will all defend ourselves together,’ said Minister of the Interior Agnė Bilotaitė.
To carry out the work as transparently as possible, a Project Supervision Commission will be established by a resolution of the Government. The Commission will be chaired by the Prime Minister and will include members of the Cabinet, members of the Seimas Committee on Budget and Finance, the Commander of the State Border Guard Service (SBGS), and the Head of the State Territorial Planning and Construction Inspectorate. Independent experts will also be drawn, if needed. The Commission will monitor all the processes related to the implementation of the project, and will make proposals for solutions.
The project to build a physical barrier has been recognised as a project of special importance to the state; therefore, to implement the project as soon as possible, priority will be given to the project-related activities, and ministries and other bodies participating in the project will have to address all the project-related matters as a matter of urgency.
The Government Resolution adopted on Monday stipulates that EPSO-G will be responsible for the organisation and coordination of the work required for the implementation of the project as well as cooperation with the SBGS when deciding on the most appropriate ways for the project implementation, preparation of the necessary documents, public procurement, contracting, and execution of contracts.
The EPSO-G group of companies is ready, and has the necessary resources to carry out the project, experience in installing complex infrastructure, and the capacity to manage the risks associated with the implementation of this type of project.
A state of national emergency has been declared in Lithuania since 2 July 2021 due to the influx of migrants. This year, 4141 irregular migrants have crossed the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, i.e. 55 times more than in 2020.
The SBGS has enhanced the border protection with Belarus since the beginning of the crisis of irregular migration. In addition to organisational measures, officials from other SBGS units have been seconded to this section, and additional technical resources have been allocated. Border guards are assisted by other institutions, such as the Lithuanian Armed Forces, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), and officials from Estonia and Austria. More than 100 officials from EU member states help guard the Lithuanian border; Frontex cars, helicopters, and thermal imaging equipment have been received. In addition, Lithuania is also building a physical barrier, a concertina fence. The Migration Department is recruiting more staff to speed up the processing of asylum applications.