Visa: Stricter rules for Russians could be introduced next week
New hurdles could arise for Russians applying for visas to enter the European Union as early as next week, with the European Commission saying on Tuesday (6 September) it hopes to get the green light from member states on the matter quickly.
The announcement comes as the bloc’s foreign ministers reached a political deal last week to suspend the 2017 visa facilitation deal with Moscow, making it more difficult and expensive for Russian nationals to enter the EU.
“Russian citizens should not be able to enter the EU easily”said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson on Tuesday, adding“At the moment there is not the slightest reason to trust anymore [d’établir] a privileged relationship between the EU and Russia”.
Russians applying for a visa to enter the Schengen area, which includes 22 EU member states plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, now have to pay 85 euros instead of 35 euros.
In addition, the standard processing time for an application will be reduced from 10 to 15 days, and in some cases, the review will continue for up to 45 days. Multiple entry visas are also subject to restrictions.
Russians applying for a visa are also required to provide other supporting documents to support their application.
“We will soon follow additional guidelines to ensure enhanced screening of visa applications and border crossings by Russian citizens without cutting ourselves off from Russian dissidents and civil society.”explained Ms. Johansson.
When asked about visas already issued to Russian citizens, Ms Johansson said there were currently fewer than a million valid visas for Russian citizens.
According to the EU Visa Information System, of the approximately 14 million visas issued to Russian citizens, about 13 million are no longer valid.
“With the suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement, as well as with the guidance that we will present, Member States will have the opportunity to review all visas already issued based on these new elements.”She said.
The Commission has also proposed that Member States refuse to recognize Russian passports issued in Kremlin-held areas of Ukraine.
“Russia continues to violate international law through its illegal military operations, commits atrocities against Ukrainians and undermines European and global security and stability”said the EU Commissioner.
Eastern countries rules expected soon
The Twenty-Seven have also increased support for neighboring countries to pursue a common regional approach, a victory for eastern member states.
According to the Schengen Borders Code, the latter are currently entitled to refuse Russians with a visa entry into their territory for security reasons if they a “Danger to public order, internal security, public health or international relations” of the country concerned.
Ministers from Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland will meet in Lithuania on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss common regional rules restricting entry of Russian visa holders at land crossings to avoid shortcomings.
Diplomats in the region said they expect full verification of Russian visas at border checkpoints.
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