EU split over visa restrictions for Russian nationals
The Czech Republic, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union (EU), faced strong opposition from some member states on Tuesday (30 August) to measures restricting the movement of Russians following the invasion from Ukraine.
The Czechs want to suspend the 2007 deal that made it easier for Russian tourists to apply for visas, while other members are calling for a total visa ban.
But other members, including Hungary, Luxembourg and Austria, also protested against this measure.
“There is no place for tourism”Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky told reporters, adding that this measure “would send a signal to the elite of Moscow and St. Petersburg”travel free now.
“I don’t think the visa ban is an appropriate decision under the current circumstances”said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, whose country has close ties with the Kremlin.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn also protested against a measure affecting ordinary Russians. “We must not have a new Iron Curtain in Europe”he pointed out. “We all agreed from the start that this was Putin’s war”.
France wants to keep the visa system for Russian citizens
His French counterpart suggested “Distinguish between warmongers, most notably the Russian President, his entourage and anyone who supports his war effort, and Russian citizens, artists, students, journalists, for example”.
“And we want and need to remain connected to them”added Catherine Colonna, reminding that the Russian oligarchs will not come under individual sanctions “do not buy in France nor in Europe”.
For his part, her Austrian colleague Alexander Schallenberg felt that the EU should not do this “Make a categorical judgment on 140 million people” in Russia.
The Czech Republic stopped issuing visas to Russians with few exceptions on February 25, a day after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russia’s neighbors Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have called on Brussels to ban the issuance of Schengen visas to Russian tourists.
According to Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, following the suspension of visas to official delegations and Russian business leaders, it is time to target ordinary Russians.
“These silent private individuals should also understand that war has consequences”he explained. “What is literally being paid for with their tax money is the bombs that are now, literally, now, killing Ukrainian children and (…) bombing hospitals, kindergartens, schools.”.
The federal government proposed a compromise on Tuesday.
“It can be a very good way to make it clear that we are suspending visa facilitation agreements, that we are no longer issuing multiple-entry visas or multi-year visas.”explained the head of German diplomacy Annalena Baerbock, who wants “Bringing different perspectives together” within the EU to find a common European solution.
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