Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania to Restrict Visas for Russian Tourists By Mid-September
The Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – have reached an agreement on the restriction of entry for Russian tourists holding Schengen visas.
The decision had been announced by the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs upon a joint meeting of the Ministers of the three countries, as well as the MFAs of the Nordic countries, held today, September 7, in Kaunas, Lithuania.
During a press conference following the meeting, Minister Rinkēvičs said that in recent months the number of Russian travellers crossing the EU borders with Schengen visas has dramatically increased, asserting that the issue has now become a “public security issue.”
“This is also an issue of a moral and political nature, and I think at this point, the Baltic states have reached, in principle – we are finalizing the details – about the policy of restricting entry through the Russian-Latvian, Belarusian-Latvian, Lithuanian-Russian, and [Lithuanian-] Belarusian as well as Estonian-Russian border of Russian citizens,” he said.
Further, he revealed that though the decision will be jointly taken, and the measures will be the same for each Baltic country, the restrictions will be imposed through national procedures.
“We will submit, respectively, coordinated documents to our respective governments, and I think that those restrictions will be applied based on decisions… in the coming ten days,” noting that in principle, the agreement has been reached, and there are only some details left to agree on.
According to him, all three countries have agreed to ban from entering Russian holders of Schengen visas, except in cases of humanitarian reasons, family reasons, lorry drivers and diplomats.
For over a month now, the Baltic countries have pushed the EU to impose a visa ban on Russian tourists, insisting that Russian tourists should not be permitted to wander throughout Europe while there’s a war waging in Ukraine.
While the issue was discussed between the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs on August 31, at an informal meeting that took place in Prague, the Ministers had only agreed to abolish the 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia, making it harder for Russian nationals to obtain a Schengen visa. Today, the Commission has also come forward with an official proposal on the suspension of the visa facilitation agreement with Russia.
The suspension of the agreement only means that Russian citizens will need to submit more documents when applying for a visa, will have to pay a fee of €80 instead of €35 as it has been up until now, and they will also have to wait for their visa to be processed for a maximum of 45 days, instead of ten to 15 days as it is now.
Immediately after the meeting of August 31, the Baltic states had warned that they would not back off on their idea to ban Russian tourists from wandering Europe as long as the war goes on in Ukraine.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Gabrielius Landsbergis, had said at the time that Poland was also part of the initiative to ban Russians from entering the EU.