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1st Oct 2022

EU chief diplomat opposes visa ban for Russian tourists

  • European chief diplomat Josep Borrell has spoken out against a visa ban for all Russians travelling to Europe (Photo: consilium.eu)
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EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has spoken out against a visa ban for all Russians travelling to Europe.

"To forbid entrance to all Russians is not a good idea," he said on Monday at a conference in Spain. "More than 300,000 Russians have [fled] their country. Are we going to close the door to these Russians?"

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EU leaders are set to meet next week to discuss the subject after Finland, Estonia, and the Czech Republic called for an EU-wide visa ban for Russian tourists last week.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky also put his weight behind the ban. But the Biden administration cautioned against it, and in a statement, the state department noted it is "important to draw a line between the actions of the Russian government and its policies in Ukraine and the people of Russia".

The European Commission has so far not offered any official guidance on the issue, but some EU members, including the Czech Republic, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency and Latvia, have suspended visas for Russians.

"The Czech Republic will seek to suspend the EU's visa facilitation agreements with Russia and Belarus," Czech minister of foreign affairs Jan Lipavský tweeted on Monday.

While EU countries have banned direct air travel from Russia, limiting the number of tourists reaching EU capitals, St Petersburg is only 300km from the Finnish capital and Russians can still travel to Estonia and Finland and reach Europe from there.

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

But last week, German chancellor Olaf Scholz came out against issuing blanket bans as the total exclusion of Russian tourists would backfire and harm president Vladimir Putin's opponents.

Scholz was later joined in opposition by his counterparts in Greece and Cyprus, both popular tourist destinations for Russians travelling abroad.

The visa ban is expected to be discussed at next week's meeting of ministers in Prague.

Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Russian citizens were circumventing the European airspace ban by driving to Helsinki airport, which was being used as a hub to fly to other tourist destinations. Finland is now restricting those border crossings.

Germany rejects visa ban for Russian tourists

German chancellor Olaf Scholz said a total ban on tourist visas will not be supported by Berlin — adding that many refugees do not agree with the Russian regime.

Column

Give Russians more visas — not fewer

It would be unwise to stop letting Russians in. Europe's aim is to stop the war in Ukraine and for Russia to withdraw completely from Ukraine. And that can only happen if Russian citizens start resisting the war.

Opinion

Stop the visas — EU is not a Russia holiday destination

So-called Russian tourists should not be able to travel to the EU and Schengen countries. Tourist visas already issued should be suspended — and stop issuing new ones, says Urmas Paet, vice-chair of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee.

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