Ban Russian tourists: Europeans in disarray

Ban Russian tourists: Europeans in disarray

kyiv calls on Europeans to ban Russian tourists to punish Moscow for the war in Ukraine, but this measure is far from consensus and would contradict the line followed so far by the Twenty-Seven in terms of sanctions.

It will be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the end of August in Prague.

“Russian tourists in Russia!” »

“The Russians massively support the war, applaud the missile strikes on Ukrainian cities and the murders of Ukrainians. So let Russian tourists enjoy Russia”said the head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Westerners to close their borders to Russians who must “live in their own world until they change their philosophy”, in an August 8 interview with the Washington Post. A judged appeal “irrational” by the Kremlin.

Offensive Finns and Baltics

Several countries have taken the lead but want a unified EU position.

Bordering Russia, Finland, which processes some 1,000 visa applications a day, has decided to reduce the number of visas issued to Russian tourists to 10% from September 1.

Since the closure of European airspace in response to the war, more and more Russians are traveling to this country to transit to other EU states using short-stay Schengen visas (90 days per 180 day period).

For the Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, it “is not fair that Russian citizens can enter Europe, the Schengen area, go sightseeing […] while Russia is killing people in Ukraine”.

This measure, which would be unprecedented “has little chance of being adopted by the EU but it should appeal to a good part of public opinion, beyond the countries historically suspicious of Russia”believes Cyrille Bret, of the Jacques-Delors Institute.

Schengen visas in question

The 26 countries in the Schengen free movement area (22 EU states, plus Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Liechtenstein) received 3 million visa applications in 2021, with Russians being the most numerous (536,000 applications with about 3% refusal).

Refusals, subject to appeal, must be reasoned (threat to security, public order or the international relations of one of the States).

Estonia lamented not being able to ban entry “to persons with a visa from another country in the Schengen area”. “Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right”launched its Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will put this issue on the menu of the meeting of European foreign ministers on August 30-31 in Prague.

“In this period of Russian aggression, which the Kremlin continues to intensify, there can be no question of tourism as usual for Russian citizens”argued Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, whose country no longer issues visas to ordinary citizens.

Like Prague, the Baltic States and Poland have tightened since the beginning of the offensive their visa regime for Russians (total stop or for tourists only), with exceptions (humanitarian, studies, work).

Spare the Russian people

For the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, a limitation of tourist visas would penalize “all people fleeing Russia because they disagree with the Russian regime”.

Sanctions must first aim to “penalize the Russian war machine and not the Russian people”abounds Portugal.

“The EU would be contradicting itself. This measure is contrary to the freedom of movement and to the policy of sanctions followed until now”emphasizes the expert from the Jacques-Delors Institute.

As for the European Commission, it highlights the need to protect dissidents, journalists and families for humanitarian reasons, recalling that requests must be examined on a case-by-case basis.

The sanctions proposals are a prerogative of the Commission, whose priority is the unity of the bloc against the Kremlin. Their adoption requires the unanimity of the Twenty-Seven.

Penalties in effect

Since the outbreak of the conflict, the EU has partially suspended the facilities for issuing short-stay visas under an EU-Russia agreement, prohibiting access to certain categories linked to the Russian regime (official delegations, members of the government, diplomatic passport holders, business leaders, etc.).

Helsinki wants a total suspension of this agreement.

The EU has also declared persona non grata 1,214 officials, including President Vladimir Putin.

Reference: www.euractiv.fr

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