Finland state

Finland’s U-turn on Russian visas doesn’t look good, HS researcher says

JOHANNA VUORELMAresearch professor at the Center for European Studies at the University of Helsinki, identified a number of inconsistencies in the decision-making process that should restrict the ability of Russians to enter Finland.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (The Greens) said on Friday that Finland would take action to prevent all entries based on tourism, signaling a complete reversal of the government’s position.

The decision includes some exceptions that have already been ironed out or made public.

The Finnish government referred to the principles of the rule of law throughout last summer and early fall to justify the continued issuance of tourist visas to Russians. Vuorelma Monday Told Helsingin Sanomat that the government initially asserted that a collective suspension of visa issuance is not feasible as the assessment must always be conducted at the individual level.

“Still, the decision was ultimately made with some exceptions,” she said.

The government had also considered that such a change of course on the visa issue would require legislative changes and violate the rules of the Schengen area. In the end, however, no legislative changes were made and a section that made the move possible was found.

Vuorelma clarified to the newspaper that she does not criticize the decision itself or its case law but rather the decision-making process that led to it. The process, she explained, will likely increase doubts about the rule of law at a time when its fundamental pillars are being politicized across Europe.

“It doesn’t look good if you first emphasize the rule of law and then go against your earlier rationale.”

She added that the process could also complicate foreign policy-making in neighboring regions. By invoking the principles of the rule of law, she explained, the government implicitly questioned the decisions taken by Poland and the Baltic countries.

“From a diplomatic point of view, it didn’t give the impression of regional solidarity,” Vuorelma said.

Finland eventually sided with the other member states, although for different reasons. While Poland and the Baltic states have defined Russian tourists as a security threat, Finland is set to bar them from entering the country due to the damage they could cause to its international reputation. Vuorelma warned that the vague rationale could be used more freely in the future in response to other immigration issues.

Helsingin Sanomat Monday reported that the Finnish government is expected to make a final decision on entry restrictions by Thursday.

Most Finns appear to be in favor of banning entry to Russian tourists. Ilta Sanomat reported a week ago, seven out of ten respondents to his survey expressed support for an entry ban. A heated public debate on the issue has continued since the removal of pandemic-related entry restrictions at borders in early July.

The Finnish government had been under pressure to impose the ban not only on opposition parties, but also on Poland and the Baltic states.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT