A divided EU debates whether to ban tourist visas from Russia

Yes to suspend visa facilitation agreement with Moscow but not to a total access ban of Russian citizens and tourists to the EU. It is the position that at the moment prevails among the foreign ministers of the European Union who, in an informal council held in Prague (Czech Republic), debate this Tuesday and Wednesday an initiative to limit the access of Russians to the EU and increase the pressure on moscow for the war in Ukraine. “There are divergent positions. There are countries that want a total ban. Others want to work within the framework of visa facilitation. I cannot say what the final result will be, but I am sure that we will achieve a balanced approach to this problem. We have to be more selective”, said the high representative for the common foreign and security policy, Joseph Borrell, upon arrival at the meeting.

France and Germany They are two of the countries that do not look favorably on a total ban, which they consider would be counterproductive because it would once again make the internal division within the EU evident. “You have to know how to distinguish between those who wage war, with the Russian president and his entourage at the forefront, and Russian citizens, artists, students, journalists. The first are responsible for the war, the others are not. We want and we have to continue to have ties with them”, recalled the French minister, Catherine Colonna. Faced with a total ban on access to Russian tourists, the compromise suggested by Berlin advocates limiting the punishment to a suspension of multiple visas or visas for several years. “I think it can be a good way & rdquor ;, has defended the minister annalena baerbock.

Either Spain is in favor of restricting full access. “We have to strike a balance between ensuring that no one involved in Vladimir Putin’s war effort is allowed to enter European territory, and at the same time ensuring that all those sectors of the population who want to know the truth of what happens in Ukraine, all those people who want to get involved in good faith, we remain open to them because these people are also the future of a peaceful relationship that the EU wants to have with Russian citizens & rdquor ;, said the minister Jose Manuel Albares upon arrival at a meeting in which the war in Ukraine and the situation in Africa will focus the discussions.

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The pressure to close the door to Russian citizens has not stopped growing in recent weeks, spurred on from kyiv. “Travel to the EU does not have any transformative effect on Russia. Since (the agreement on) visa facilitation in 2007, Moscow has attacked Georgia, launched a war against Ukraine, committed multiple crimes. All this with a majority popular support. To transform Russia, the door must be closed to Russian tourists & rdquor ;, the Ukrainian foreign minister responded, Dymitro Kulebagiven the reluctance of some European countries.

His message has support within the EU. Particularly among the Baltic countriesthe Czech Republic either Poland who demand the suspension of visas for Russian citizens who want to enter any country in the Schengen free movement area. “I hope that we will achieve a common European solution that will allow us to significantly limit the flow of Russian tourists to Europe & rdquor ;, the Lithuanian minister said hopefully Gabrielius Landsbergis.

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The EU already decided to suspend parts of the short-stay visa agreement at the end of February, following Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine. Under debate now and in the face of the division generated by a total ban, the possibility of further limiting the granting of visas is gaining strength, and a tightening of the procedure, making it more cumbersome and expensive. “We would like to distinguish between the Russian state and its citizens. But at the same time we see that by far the ones who come here the most are rich Russians who at least have ties to the regime & rdquor ;, said the Dutch foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstrato the RTL string.

“We fully support the suspension of the visa facilitation agreement. At the same time, we are open to taking more decisions to restrict the movement of Russian citizens in the EU, with an emphasis on tourist visas. But we need a solid legal basis for it and we need to be careful not to block the possibility of exposing the young generation in Russia to European values.” Bogdan Aurescu. Both the Netherlands, which has not issued a visa to Russian tourists since April, and Romania, which has issued 800 of which 130 were for tourism, have warned that the restrictions should not affect humanitarian visas or political dissidents.


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