EU complicates travel rules for Russians but baulks at visa ban

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PRAGUE, Aug 31 (Reuters) – EU foreign ministers decided on Wednesday to make it more expensive and longer for Russians to obtain visas to travel to the bloc, but did not approve the EU-wide visa ban imposed on Ukraine and several Member States had called for.

The EU was too divided to agree on a blanket ban at this stage, and also left unclear what unilateral measures Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland, which have land borders with Russia, could take to restrict access to Russian visitors. to limit.

These five countries welcomed the suspension of the Russian visa facilitation agreement as a step in the right direction, but four of them stressed that more needed to be done to reduce the number of visas issued and the Russians traveling to the bloc since Moscow’s invasion of Moscow.” drastically”. in February.

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Until such measures are in place at EU level, we will consider introducing temporary measures at national level for a visa ban, or limiting border crossings for Russian citizens holding an EU visa, in order to avoid impending problems with public security,” Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland said in a joint statement.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said Moscow would not let the move stand “without consequences”, according to RIA news agencies.

“If Brussels decides to shoot themselves in the foot again, this is their choice,” he said.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said the EU’s executive committee would indeed look at ways to move forward, including what can be done with what Lipavsky said, given that about 12 million Schengen visas have already been issued for Russians – referring to the 26 country zone with open borders.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell argued that the suspension of the visa facilitation agreement will have a real impact in itself.

“This will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by EU member states. It will be more difficult, it will take longer,” he told a press conference at the end of a two-day meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague. .

Borrell said a substantial increase in border crossings from Russia into neighboring countries since mid-July had made it necessary to suspend the visa facilitation agreement.

“SAFETY RISK”

“This has become a security risk for these neighboring countries,” he added. “In addition, we have seen many Russians traveling for leisure and shopping as if there is no war going on in Ukraine.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine began, more than 1 million Russian citizens have entered the bloc through land border crossings, most of them through Finland and Estonia, said Frontex, the bloc’s border agency. read more

Ukraine has repeatedly said ordinary Russians should also pay for the invasion, which, according to the United Nations, killed thousands of civilians and razed cities to the ground.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reiterated the call for an EU visa ban earlier on Wednesday, saying it would be “an appropriate response to Russia’s genocidal war of aggression in the heart of Europe, supported by an overwhelming majority of Russian citizens”. read more

But France and Germany disagreed.

“We warn of far-reaching restrictions on our visa policy, to avoid feeding the Russian narrative and causing unintended rallying around the flag effects and/or alienating future generations,” they said in a joint memo.

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Additional coverage by Sabine Siebold, Jason Hovet, Bart Meijer and Gabriela Baczynska; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by John Chalmers, Nick Macfie and Mark Porter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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