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1st Mar 2024

Germany rejects visa ban for Russian tourists

  • German chancellor Olaf Scholz: 'We should not make it more complicated [for Russians] to leave the country,' (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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It is important to "remember the many refugees who have fled Russia are disagreeing with the Russian regime" German chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a Nordic summit in Oslo on Monday (15 August), as the debate over EU visa bans for Russian citizens in Europe remains unresolved between EU leaders.

In the past week Lithuania and Estonia — Baltic EU member states bordering Russia — have already suspended tourist visas to Russians. Finland has also expressed support for a visa ban.

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EU countries have banned air travel from Russia. St Petersburg is only 300km from the Finnish capital and Russians can still travel to Estonia and Finland and reach European capitals from there.

Normally, people and goods move freely between these countries without border checks.

But Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin said at Monday's summit that she did not think it was right for Russian citizens to be allowed to go "sightseeing" in the EU while the Russian military "kills people in Ukraine."

Since Covid restrictions on travel were lifted, Russian border crossings to Finland have increased by between 10 to 30 percent compared to spring, Finnish government officials said last week.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky also said in an interview last week that EU countries should deny all Russian tourists access to the bloc as punishment for the Kremlin's decision to invade Ukraine.

But Scholz on Monday warned a total exclusion of Russian tourists would backfire and would also harm Russian president Vladimir Putin's opponents.

"All the decisions we make should not make it more complicated to leave the country," Scholz said.

Marin however said that the issue needed to be discussed further by EU member states. "It is not a black-or-white question, there are shades of grey,'' she said.

"I would personally like to see European solutions to this question as well," Marin said last week.

The visa issue will be discussed at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers on 31 August.

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