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Will be Russians banned to travel without visas?


European Union ministers are set this week to support the suspension of a 2007 agreement with Moscow that gave preferential treatment to visa requests by Russians, the Financial Times reports, citing anonymous officials involved with the talks.

The August 28 report comes as Eastern EU member states have threatened to unilaterally close their borders to Russian tourists in the face of the Kremlin’s unprovoked and ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

U ministers plan to give political support to suspending the EU-Russia visa-facilitation agreement at a two-day meeting in Prague that begins on August 30, three officials involved in the talks told The Financial Times.

“It is inappropriate for Russian tourists to stroll in our cities, on our marinas,” a senior EU official involved in the talks said. “We have to send a signal to the Russian population that this war is not OK; it is not acceptable.”

Parts of the 2007 visa-facilitation deal with Moscow relating to free movement of government and business officials were suspended shortly after the February invasion.

The FT said a wider suspension of the accord would remove preferential treatment for Russians when applying for all EU visas. Russian applicants would then need to provide additional documents, making visas more expensive and significantly increasing waiting periods, the report said.

“We are in an exceptional situation and it requires exceptional steps. We want to go beyond suspending the visa facilitation,” the senior EU official told the FT, adding that even stricter requirements could be introduced by the end of the year.

Regarding an outright ban on visas for Russian tourists, Cyprus and Greece have joined German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s position in opposing such a block, while other countries led by the Baltics, Finland and the Czech Republic have been calling for a full travel ban, echoing pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday played down the prospects for a proposal to implement a complete ban on Russian travelers into the EU. Forbidding all Russians from entering the EU “is not a good idea,” Borrell said. “We have to be more selective.”

EU member states neighboring Russia such as Estonia and Finland have already prepared national measures to limit visas for Russian tourists.
Some member states have demanded action to prevent ordinary Russians from traveling to the EU on tourist visas to punish Moscow.

What does neighbours think about the ban?


The Czech Republic and Poland stopped issuing visas to Russian tourists shortly after Russia’s February 24 invasion.

They have been vocal in demanding that the EU enact a complete ban, something Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pleaded with the bloc to do.

Poland and the Baltic countries along the Russian border have suggested they are prepared to stop allowing Russians with tourist visas to enter their territories, citing the Schengen agreement’s national-security exceptions.

Finland, which as a 1,335-kilometer border with Russia, this month said it will reduce the number of Russian tourist visas it issues by 90 percent as of September 1.

“Tourist visas will not stop completely, but their number will be significantly reduced,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters. “This means that other types of visas — visits to relatives, family contacts, work, study — will be given preference and more time.”

Finland processes around 1,000 Russian visa applications a day, according to the public broadcaster Yle.

However, there has so far been no consensus among the 27 union members, and some EU nations have continued to grant tourist visas, allowing Russians to travel anywhere in the Schengen free-movement area.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed that it is important to sanction those close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he said Europeans should “also understand that there are a lot of people fleeing from Russia because they disagree with the Russian regime.”

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that “I do look forward to finding a joint European solution on how to significantly limit the flows of Russian tourists to Europe. [But] if a joint solution is not found, we do not rule out a regional agreement among the countries most affected by the huge flows of Russian tourists abusing European hospitality.”