Saturday

20th Aug 2022

Estonia mulls Schengen ban on Russian officials

  • Named Russian officials would be turned back at Schengen borders if Estonia goes ahead (Photo: Khairil Zhafri)

Estonia may unilaterally ban Russian officials deemed guilty of human rights abuses from entering the EU’s Schengen travel zone after a parliament vote.

Seventy two out of 101 MPs on Tuesday (15 March) voted Yes to a statement saying: “The Riigikogu [Estonian parliament] calls for officials of the Russian Federation who are responsible for the capture, detention and illegal trial of Nadiya Savchenko to be banned from entering the European Union.”

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Riigikogu: Motion tabled by senior MP in ruling party and endorsed by whopping majority on Tuesday (Photo: Troy David Johnston)

Savchenko is a Ukrainian fighter pilot abducted two years ago by Russia-linked forces in Ukraine and taken to Russia, according to the EU.

Russia says she crossed the border herself to plot attacks. She was put on trial and faces 25 years in prison.

The EU, whose diplomats attended court hearings, has said she was “denied the core right to fair proceedings.”

Her defiant courtroom statements and on-off hunger strikes have made her a hero in Ukraine.

The Riigikogu motion is not binding on the Estonian government.

Asked by EUobserver on Tuesday how the government will proceed, an Estonian foreign ministry spokesperson said the motion contains “very substantial proposals on next steps” and “needs to be discussed first.”

Eerik-Niiles Kross, an MP from Estonia’s ruling Reform Party and the country’s former intelligence chief, told EUobserver that “there’s a good chance” Estonia will ban the Russian officials by using Schengen.

EU-level visa bans are enacted by consensus in the EU Council in Brussels.

But, under Schengen rules, if one Schengen member state red-flags a name in the Schengen Information System all the other members are obliged to deny them entry.

"The beauty of this is that once Estonia puts them on a blacklist it's in force through Schengen,” Kross said.

The Schengen area includes 22 EU states and Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

Political pressure

Kross said the 72-MP majority and the fact the statement was tabled by a senior politician made it hard to ignore.

The motion was initiated by Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, the deputy chair of the Reform Party and a former foreign minister.

Kross said: “We from parliament will soon ask the government if they have done so [introduced the Schengen ban] and if needed send them a list [of Russian names].”

He said Estonia’s list, if it goes forward, would overlap with an informal European Parliament list drafted by Lithuanian liberal MEP Petras Austrevicius.

The Austrevicius list names Russian leader Vladimir Putin and 28 other people, most of whom are judges and prosecutors. Kross said Estonia is “unlikely” to red-flag Putin.

Swiss precedent

Switzerland, for one, in 2010 used the Schengen system to ban 188 Libyan officials from entering all Schengen states.

It did so in a dispute over Hannibal Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whom it accused of beating servants in a Swiss hotel.

Libya in return banned entry to all Schengen state nationals. Italy at the time criticised Switzerland for political abuse of Schengen protocols.

The EU foreign service on Tuesday declined to comment on the potential diplomatic fallout if Estonia goes ahead.

Its spokesperson said the EU has published six statements urging Russia to free Savchenko.

’Humiliation’

The EU already has a visa ban on 146 Russians and Ukrainians on grounds they took part in “threatening of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”.

But it has ignored MEPs and national MPs’ calls to list Russian officials on human rights grounds, notably in the case of killed Russian anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky.

Speaking in the Riigikogu ahead of Tuesday’s vote Kross said the Savchenko case is a violation of the laws of war set out in the Geneva Conventions, to which Russia is a signatory.

“Good and evil exist and in Nadiya Savchenko’s case we have to be against evil,” he said. “Being silent would mean accepting humiliation by Moscow.”

EU to extend sanctions on Putin 'cronies'

EU states will, next week, extend the life of blacklists of Russians and Ukrainians deemed responsible for the Ukraine conflict or for plundering Ukraine’s treasury.

No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks

Serbia's president Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo's prime minster Albin Kurti met in Brussels with the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, in the hopes of finding a solution the recent spike in tensions between the two sides.

Opinion

Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?

The former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have retained close ties with Russia since 1989. Yet this consensus may be shifting. At the UN, none of them supported Russia in the resolution condemning the Ukraine invasion.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

News in Brief

  1. China joins Russian military exercises in Vostok
  2. Ukraine nuclear plant damage would be 'suicide', says UN chief
  3. Denmark to invest €5.5bn in new warships
  4. German economy stagnates, finance ministry says
  5. Syria received stolen grain, says Ukraine envoy
  6. Truss still leads in next UK PM polling
  7. UN chief meets Zelensky and Erdogan over grain exports
  8. Fighting stalls ahead of UN visit, Ukraine says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. European inflation hits 25-year high, driven by energy spike
  2. No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks
  3. Letter to the Editor: Rosatom responds on Zaporizhzhia
  4. Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?
  5. Serbia expects difficult talks with Kosovo at EU meeting
  6. How scary is threat to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant?
  7. Slovakia's government stares into the abyss
  8. Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us