EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs Agree to Suspend Visa Facilitation Agreement With Russia
The European Union has not entirely banned Russian tourists from entering its territory, but it has agreed to make it harder for the citizens of this country to obtain a Schengen Visa.
In a meeting held on August 31 in Prague, the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs have agreed to suspend the visa facilitation agreement with the Russian Federation, which was reached back in 2007.
The decision has been confirmed by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
“This will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by the EU member states. It’s going to be more difficult; it’s going to take longer,” Borrell said at the end of a two-day meeting on Wednesday, while also noting that the move was necessary due to the increase of travellers from Russia reaching the EU countries for leisure and shopping “as if no war was raging in Ukraine.”
The move was previously warned to take place after several EU officials confirmed for the Financial Times that the EU would suspend the 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia instead of imposing an entry ban.
The suspension of the agreement means that Russian citizens, without exclusion, will now have to pay visa application fees of €80 instead of €35 as it has been so far.
They will also be subject to stricter requirements for getting a visa, more documents will be required, and the applicants in this country will have to wait longer for an appointment and for a response to their applications.
At the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU Commission had partially suspended the visa facilitation agreement with Russia, stripping the benefits arising from this agreement for several categories of Russian citizens, including members of Russia’s official delegations, members of the Russian government and parliaments, the Russia’s Constitutional Court and Supreme Court, holders of Russian diplomatic passports, and businesspeople and representatives of business organizations.
The move was welcomed by the Member States, in particular by those who had been pushing for new measures to be taken to halt the number of Russian tourists entering Europe.
“It’s important that we show that at the same time when Ukrainians are suffering, normal tourism shouldn’t continue business as usual,” the Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said upon the meeting in which this decision was taken.
Starting today, the Finnish authorities have cut down the number of tourist visa applications admitted by the country’s embassy, consulates, and visa processing centres in Russia from 1000 per week to only 100 per week.
The country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has deemed the measure necessary after concluding that Finland was being used as a transit country by Russians whose destinations were other European countries in the Schengen Area.
On August 23, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported that Finland’s Helsinki airport’s parking garage had been filled with Porches, Bentleys and other luxury cars with Russian licence plates, as rich Russian tourists were driving to this airport in order to take a flight to other EU countries.
According to data revealed by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, until August 22, 998,085 Russians have entered the EU territory.