European Union countries are at odds over whether to ban Russian tourists from visiting the EU.
Ukraine said in an interview with the Washington Post on August 8 about the step, which is among the measures it proposes to punish Moscow for the invasion, that the Russians “must live in their own world until they change their mindset”.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba also stated that the majority of Russians support the war and welcome the missiles fired at Ukrainian cities.
Although the Kremlin finds these calls “irrational”, EU foreign ministers will discuss the issue on 30-31 August.
Finland and the Baltic countries support my name
Finland is one of the EU countries that has taken steps to reduce Russian tourists.
The Scandinavian country, which has a land border with Russia, normally processes 1000 visa applications from its neighbor every day, but as of September 1, it has decided to accept 10 percent, that is, 100 percent.
As the EU closed its airspace to Russia within the scope of sanctions, the number of Russians who wanted to cross over to other countries by road through Finland had also increased.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin defends the decision, saying that “it is not fair for Russian citizens to enter the Schengen area for tourism while Russia is killing people in Ukraine.”
Cyrille Bret from the Jacque Dellors Institute states that although this measure has a very low chance of being implemented across the EU, it may be effective in attracting the attention of the less-concerned public about Russia.
Schengen visa on the agenda
In the Schengen area, which provides freedom of travel within itself, there are 22 European countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Liechtenstein.
While 3 million people applied for Schengen visa in 2021, the Russians took the lead with 536 thousand applications. Only 3 percent of these applications were rejected.
Lithuania, which has a land border with Russia’s only ally, Belarus, has started issuing visas to Belarusian and Russian citizens only for humanitarian reasons and other international obligations since March 10.
While the country’s foreign minister described this decision as both effective and fair, he stressed that those who received rejections from Lithuania applied to other Schengen countries and emphasized that the problem continued.
The Estonian prime minister also complained about a similar situation and stated that they could not prevent people with Schengen visas from another country from entering their country.
Jan Lipavsky, the foreign minister of Czechia, who is the term president of the EU, also put the issue on the agenda of the next meeting, saying, “It is unthinkable to give visas to the Russians as if nothing happened during this period of Russian aggression.”
Since the beginning of the occupation in Poland, it started to issue visas to Russians only for humanitarian, educational and business purposes.
Denmark has also signaled that it is willing to reduce the number of visas issued to Russians.
‘Punish the Russian people’
On the other hand, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz argues that limiting tourist visas will mean punishing Russians who want to leave the country because they are against the Moscow regime.
Portugal also states that the sanctions should target Russia’s war wheels, not the Russian people.
Bret of the Jacque Dellors Institute shares this view. Bret argues that by punishing ordinary Russians, the EU will go against its own values.
Answering questions on the subject, the European Commission announced that visas for public employees, government officials, holders of diplomatic passports and business people connected to the Russian regime are currently suspended.
On the other hand, the commission emphasized that the applications were handled one by one in order to protect the dissidents, journalists and their families.
So far, 1,214 Russian officials, including Russian leader Vladimir Putin, have been banned from entering or transiting EU countries.