In a joint statement, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland and Estonia demanded that the European Commission propose "appropriate measures on visas" that "will decisively reduce the flow of Russian citizens to the European Union and the Schengen area," the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, August 31. "Until such measures are taken at the EU level, we will consider the possibility of introducing temporary measures at the national level to address urgent public security issues related to the increased influx of Russian citizens across our borders," the document reads.
The authors of the statement note that since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, about 700 thousand Russians have entered their countries, most of whom are tourists who use the border states with the Russian Federation as a gateway to travel to western EU countries on vacation. "We believe that this could become a serious threat to public security," the statement reads stressing the need to maintain "exceptions for dissidents, as well as other humanitarian cases." "We need to continue to support opponents of the Putin regime and provide them with opportunities to leave Russia," the statement said.
Without reaching a consensus on a total ban on issuing visas to Russians, EU foreign ministers intend to use Wednesday's meeting in Prague to agree on the suspension of the 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Moscow. This idea, in particular, was voiced by the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Such a measure would make visas more expensive for Russians, require more supporting documents and increase the waiting time, which will allow for a more thorough check on what basis the application was submitted and what is the applicant's relations to the Russian government. The five countries said in a statement that such a suspension is a "necessary first step," but it will not prevent them from looking for tougher measures to reduce the influx of Russians entering their countries.
The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba insists on a complete ban on the entry of Russian tourists to the EU countries. "The time for half-measures is over," Kuleba wrote in an email to Reuters on the second day of an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague. According to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, such a ban would be appropriate, since most Russians supported
aggressive war against Ukraine. "Only a tough and consistent policy can lead to results," Kuleba’s said in his letter.
Russia condemned speculation about a possible ban on the issuance of visas as "completely groundless." Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the proposed measures were "a set of irrationalities bordering on insanity" and threatened retaliation.