Finland state

Finland plans to restrict tourist visas for Russians | New

Extending sanctions to limit the movement of Russian citizens would require a unanimous decision by EU countries.

Cars arriving from Ivangorod in Russia queue at Estonian customs in Narva on Sunday August 7. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

The Finnish government will meet on Tuesday to discuss putting in place restrictions on tourist visas for Russian citizens.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) called for an EU-wide decision on limiting the entry into the Schengen area of ​​Russian tourists. She added that she expects the issue to be raised at EU meetings, the first of which is scheduled for October.

However, there is not yet unanimous support among EU member states for restricting travel by Russian citizens. A joint EU decision would be the most effective option, according to the researchers, but each country is preparing to make its own decisions.

The idea of ​​extending EU sanctions to tourist visas – which has been pushed in particular by Finland and the Baltic countries – coincides with the holiday season in central Europe, which makes it impossible to predict the amount of the help she will receive.

Academic of the University of Helsinki Timo Miettinen told Yle that Russian tourists are so important to the economies of many EU countries that the required unanimous decision will be difficult to achieve.

“If you think about the travel restrictions for ordinary Russians, I think right now there is not full support in Europe among the 27 member states,” Miettinen said, noting that many countries don’t have not yet publicly expressed their position on the matter. .

Timo Miettinen, researcher at the University of Helsinki. Image: Markku Rantala / Yle

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said earlier this week that he had reservations about imposing significant travel restrictions on Russian citizens.

Germany has previously stressed that the entire Russian people should not be blamed for the president Vladimir Poutineis war.

Opposition to the general ban

EU countries have banned Russian planes from entering their airspace, but there is still land access to the EU via Finland, Estonia and Latvia, and from Kaliningrad to Lithuania and Poland.

The Estonian border will be closed to most Russians next week when the Baltic nation stops accepting visas. Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said allowing tourists to enter the Schengen area via Estonia is against the principles of commonly agreed sanctions by the EU. Other Baltic countries, as well as Poland, have also tightened their visa policies.

Jussi Lassilasenior researcher at the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs, told Yle that he hopes any decision to prevent Russian tourists from entering the EU will be taken after calm deliberation, not in a “flush of emotion”.

Large-scale visa bans would be counterproductive, he added, because access to the West is also an important lifeline for the Russian opposition. Many prominent members of the Russian opposition movement have expressed concern about the possibility of visa restrictions.

However, proponents of the visa restriction have argued that such a move is justified because ordinary Russians are quietly accepting their country’s war in Ukraine.

Jussi Lassila, senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs. Image: Silja Viitala/Yle

The idea of ​​collective guilt, however, does not apply in a situation where the opposition has been crushed and there is no real possibility of protest, Lassila pointed out.

“If this rhetoric is so one-sided, that the baby has to come out with the bathwater, I think that’s morally wrong, but also politically short-sighted,” he said.

The majority of Russians do not go on vacation abroad

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky advocated the abolition of tourist visas as an effective sanction against Russia. His country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

Lipavský told reporters earlier this week that he planned to present the issue to EU foreign ministers at an informal meeting in Prague in late August. Finland will also seek support from EU countries at the same meeting, although no formal decision will be taken.

The Finnish government does not yet have a definitive position on how to restrict Russian tourism. The Foreign Office has explored various options, one of which is to make it more difficult in practice to obtain a tourist visa. The government will consider the options at the informal meeting on Tuesday evening.

The anger over Russia’s war in Ukraine is, according to Lassila, perfectly understandable, but he added that restricting the movement of ordinary Russians could turn into a victory for Putin. A decision to deny travel visas to Russians could, he noted, easily be seen as another example of Western hostility.

The idea that closing the border would increase discontent in Russia and turn people against Putin’s regime is unlikely, Lassila added, noting that the vast majority of Russians do not go on holiday abroad and would not be in no way affected by such a decision.

In reality, restricting travel visas would likely serve Russia’s long-term goal of separating from the West and in turn boost the domestic tourism market, which would also benefit Russia. Russia.

However, Lassila said he supported the proposal to increase visa fees and redirect revenue to Ukraine. He also thinks it would be important to remind people of the war when they arrive at the Finnish border.

“Concretely, I would like to see the conditions for tourist visas tightened. But it’s different from not issuing visas at all,” he said.