The European Union wants to further restrict and make it more difficult for Russian citizens to enter the EU – but under no circumstances wants to completely prevent travel. A complete visa ban is “not a good suggestion,” said the EU foreign policy officer on Sunday Josep Borrell with a view to the informal meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week in Prague. “I don’t think there will be any positive results if we cut ties with the Russian people.” Furthermore, Borrell added, there is not the necessary unanimity among the 27 member states.
In order to reach a compromise, the EU is now considering, among other things, the agreement on visa facilitation with Russia from 2007 completely suspend like that Financial Times reported over the weekend. Parts of the agreement that affect government officials and business people have already been suspended since the attack on Ukraine. Suspending the simplifications entirely would now extend the deadlines for all applicants and make the fees more expensive.
Borrell would neither deny nor confirm the plan. In any case, the EU must act in a balanced and targeted manner if it locks out Russian citizens, said the Spaniard in an interview with ORF on the sidelines of the European Forum in Alpbach. So far, the EU only has high-level supporters Wladimir Putin subject to sanctions. The circle could now be expanded.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky initiated the debate in the EU with his call for an entry ban for Russian tourists. All Russians should be punished for Putin’s war of aggression, says Zelensky. The most prominent opponent of such a step is the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He warns against cutting off contact with Russian civil society altogether, as a visa ban would also affect opponents of Putin. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had recently indicated that the federal government would not shy away from a compromise on the issue, but insisted that the 140 million people in Russia should not be “taken into kinship custody”.
Some countries no longer issue tourist visas
Selenksi is supported by the Baltic states, Finland, Poland and the Czech Republic, which no longer issue tourist visas for Russians. The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský, as representative of the current Council Presidency, has therefore put the topic on the agenda in Prague. His argument: It is unacceptable for Russians to vacation and go shopping in Europe while their president is waging a war of aggression. Tourist trips could also be used to circumvent EU sanctions and conduct Russian propaganda. Nobody is demanding a general entry ban, Lipavský said before the meeting in Prague. It’s about short-term visas for tourists. There is a special visa program in the Czech Republic for members of the opposition.
As the EU border protection agency Frontex announced via Twitter, since the beginning of the war in the Ukraine almost a million Russian citizens entered the EU by land, most of them via Finland, Estonia and Lithuania. These countries are particularly affected because there are no longer any direct flights from Russia to the EU due to EU sanctions. However, the figures include not only tourists with visas, but also holders of dual citizenship and a residence permit in the EU.
The governments of Estonia and Finland have recently decided not only to no longer issue new visas, but also to no longer accept the old tourist visas issued by their authorities. Other countries, such as Belgium, have practically stopped issuing visas – on the grounds that their representations in Russia have been severely thinned out. In principle, however, the states belonging to the Schengen area are obliged to recognize visas issued by other Schengen states. For example, Estonia cannot simply refuse to recognize a visa that the German authorities have issued.