To keep Russia out, and would be secessionists in, Ukraine has started to mark its territory at its border with the Great Wall of Ukraine. It is however, neither great, nor a wall. Its a symbolic fence that is still undergoing development, and only just recently acquired its first stretch of wire fencing in Kharkiv, which is part of the northern region close to the neighbouring Luhansk. This is where skirmishes are frequent. The goal of the Great Wall of Ukraine is to eventually have it span the length of the eastern land border with Russia. This is a total distance of 1,500 miles. Ukraine hopes to also replete it with trenches, armed guards and watch towers.
The idea started as a political play by Petro Poroshenko in the run up to the elections, but has since become a priority according to the Ukraine President. It’s estimated that the plan to build this wall will take 3 to 4 years to complete, and cost around $500 million. Ukraine is bankrupt, so they hope to raise the funds with the help of the EU, who will provide a portion of it in support of the recent regions difficulties.
European Iron Curtains
There are a number of fences that are being erected all around Eastern Europe. From Ukraine, Poland, and Bulgaria. This is a Soviet era iron curtain resurgence. Poland have announced plans to harden its border with Russia also. The exclave of Kaliningrad is to the north of Poland, with the plan to put in place 6 watch towers this year. Further south in the country of Bulgaria there is a fence that is topped with razor wire being built expected to stretch the length of the southern border they share with Turkey. Bulgaria’s goal is to stop the flow of refugees that are arriving from the Middle East and Africa, and to also curb the risk they are under of receiving militants from places such as Syria and Iraq. Erecting a wall is not only a gesture to define borders, its becoming a mechanism to stem the movement of people.
Bulgaria’s fence is a project that has the ambitions of the United States border reinforcement with Mexico. They plan to use state of the art integrated monitoring systems. This is going to see the complete southern border of Bulgaria’s link with Turkey, closely monitored by a special task force of more than 1,500 border patrol police. The fence will stretch around 100 miles across the southern border with Turkey, and is planned to be finished by June 2015, spanning 3 metres in height with barbed wire rolls in front of it. Bulgaria has argued that it has good reason to create such a controversial border plan. Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in the EU, and they have seen a rise in their refugee burden as a result of their geographical location. They oppose the EU directive that says refugees are legally restricted to the EU country they enter first.
The fence has already started to deliver results. Before work began on it 16 months ago, there were around 100 refugees per day arriving into Bulgaria. The majority of them made up from Kurds, Syrians, Iraqis and Yazidis. Now that the first part has been completed that number has dropped to around 20 per day. More than 15,000 known Syrian refugees have entered the country of Bulgaria illegally. This has directly related to the rise of the civil war, with at least 4,000 refugees taken into the care of refugee centres in Bulgaria.
Another fence that is being constructed in Europe is on the upper edge of Poland. This part of the border is close to Gdansk which up until a few months ago lay unsecured. Now however, there lies the outline to a massive border building plan. The idea which has been proposed by the Polish authorities is to build 6 50metre high watch towers to conduct surveillance along the 2000 km long border with Russia westernmost territory, Kaliningrad. Poland fears they are being heavily armed by Russia after the official defence announcement from the Kremlin stated they would arm Kaliningrad with Iskander missiles. The 6 watchtowers will begin going up in June 2015, costing roughly $3.8 million. They plan to fund the cost receiving 75% of funding direct from the EU’s External Borders Fund.
With the signal of wall building emanating from such prominent EU countries, the message is clear, that border protection is important for the various regions, politically and economically. The problem with wall building is that it can create a hysteria, as other countries race to put up their own matching border plans, increasing tension amongst member states. In Germany the wall came down, but it seems the trend is that walls are once again an issue on the political agendas of many.