Will the EU abolish tourist visas for Russians? | European | News and current affairs from across the continent | DW

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Should Russians be banned from holidays in the EU? German conservative opposition lawmakers certainly think so. In an interview with German tabloid Bild on Monday, Andrea Lindholz of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) called on Russians to stop receiving holiday visas. However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and members of his three-party governing coalition reject a universal ban on Russian tourists.

Some other EU governments are also hesitant to support such a measure. The European Commission expects a visa ban to raise legal and humanitarian issues, especially for Russian dissidents. Yet EU member states, mostly in the east, have nonetheless gone ahead and restricted visa access for Russians, and in some cases suspended short-term tourist visas.

They are now urging other member states to follow suit and implement an EU-wide travel ban for Russian holidaymakers – a request also made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Russian holidaymakers face obstacles when visiting the bloc, as Russian planes are banned from entering EU airspace and vice versa. In recent months, many have therefore traveled to neighboring European states such as Finland, the Baltic States and Poland. Some EU states have already taken, or are considering, measures to end these influxes of Russians.

Which countries want to end Russian tourist visas?

Estonia

Speaking to Estonian radio on Monday, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu reiterated that “we need to significantly increase the cost of these aggressions before winter”. The Estonian lawmaker has called for a total boycott of Russian energy imports, new sanctions against certain Russian people and an EU-wide travel ban for ordinary Russians.

Estonia has already stopped issuing visas and residence permits to Russian nationals. As of last week, Russians can only enter the country if they have a valid visa and are currently residing in the country or have relatives living there.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu shake hands in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu shake hands in Kyiv

Latvia

Latvian authorities are also in favor of an EU-wide ban on Russian tourists. Currently, Russians can only enter the country to attend the funeral of a close relative.

Lithuania

Lithuania has largely stopped issuing visas to Russian nationals. The authorities support the extension of these restrictions to all EU states. Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the step was necessary because Russians can currently obtain a visa from any EU consulate and enter the bloc through member states bordering Russia.

Russians traveling to the EU by land

Finland

Finland shares the longest land border with Russia among all EU states. Russians travel there daily to obtain short-term European visas. Finnish authorities now want to limit the number of visas issued to tourists, even though Finnish law technically does not allow such a restriction, as Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said. Instead, Finland plans to shorten the opening hours of visa offices from September, to drastically reduce the number of travel permits issued. Conversely, Finland aims to make it easier for Russians to enter the country for important reasons, such as work or family reunions.

Czech Republic

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Czech authorities stopped issuing visas to Russian and then Belarusian nationals. The country also supports pursuing an EU-wide decision on the matter. Because it currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Czech Republic has the prerogative to put the topic at the top of the agenda at the next EU summit later this month.

Russian beachgoers near St. Petersburg

Russian beachgoers near St. Petersburg. Will they be able to enjoy EU beaches in the near future?

Poland

The Polish government also wants the entire bloc to suspend tourist visas for Russian visitors. Authorities are expected to move forward with national regulations in the coming weeks.

Exceptions for Russians in Need

Denmark

Denmark intends to limit visas for Russians at the national level, but also favors a coordinated EU-wide approach. Absorption Minister Kore Dyubvad recently called Estonia’s suggestion of universal restrictions “reasonable”. Currently, if a single EU state grants a Schengen visa to Russian visitors, they can travel freely to the rest of the bloc.

The Netherlands

Dutch authorities stopped issuing short-term visas to Russians in April after Russia expelled several Dutch embassy employees. However, it grants exceptions in case of emergency. Short-term visas can be obtained in the event of “compelling humanitarian reasons”. Long-term visas are excluded from the ban.

This article has been translated from German.

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