Only EU countries can decide on Russian visa applications: EU official

World
Fri, 12 Aug 2022 9:35 GMT
EU member states can refuse to issue visas based on threats to public policy, internal security.
Only EU countries can decide on Russian visa applications: EU official

It is exclusively the EU countriesright to decide on visa applications and eventually refuse Russian citizens, an EU official said on Thursday in response to the recent initiative from Estonia, Latvia and Finland to prohibit the entry of all Russians to the bloc’s territory.

“(EU) member states are solely responsible for the assessment of the visa applications on an individual basis and also for the issuance of visas,” Anitta Hipper, a European Commission spokesperson on home affairs, told reporters at the institution’s daily news briefing.

Her remarks came after Estonia, Latvia and Finland proposed an EU-wide suspension of granting Schengen visas for Russian citizens.

Estonia’s top diplomat Urmas Reinsalu said on Thursday that he will soon present an official proposal that EU foreign ministers can discuss at their informal meeting in Prague, the Czech Republic on Aug. 31.

Decision of EU member states

Hipper acknowledged that according to the European Commission’s visa guidelines, it is possible to refuse visa applications “on grounds of being the threats to public policy or internal security” after examining each case on its own merits.

At the same time, she declined to share the European Commission’s opinion on the northern countries’ initiative, stressing that it is the right of the national authorities, not of the EU executive body, to take such decisions under EU law.

EU member states can coordinate their decisions on whom they allow to enter their territory, as happened during the COVID-19 pandemic when the EU banned non-essential travel from outside the bloc.

In February, the EU partially suspended its visa-facilitation agreement with Russia, mainly targeting government officials, diplomats, and business people.

In May, the European Commission issued legally non-binding guidelines on the visa process for Russian citizens after the EU sanctioned Russia, banning, among others, the travel of politicians, officials, and businessmen responsible for the military aggression in Ukraine.

Proposal on banning Russian citizens

The new proposal seeks a unified EU-wide suspension of tourist visas and to prevent all other means to circumvent the ban.

“Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said earlier this week.

Finnish Premier Sanna Marin also stressed that “it’s not right that at the same time as Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe.”

The initiative came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy explicitly requested the EU to ban Russian citizens from its territory to increase diplomatic pressure.

However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz rejected on Friday the idea, stressing that “it is (President Vladimir) Putin’s war” and that sanctions should not harm innocent people.

For its part, the Czech Republic already suspended issuing visas to all Russians with the exception of humanitarian cases on Feb. 28, only four days after Russia began its war in Ukraine.

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