EU to Suspend Visa Facilitation Deal with Russia
EU foreign ministers have agreed to suspend the visa facilitation agreement that makes it significantly easier for Russian citizens to obtain Schengen visas.
It is reminded that following Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, the EU-Russia visa facilitation agreement was partially suspended for special collectives, groups of people – officials, entrepreneurs.
“Now it is fully suspended,” said EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday.
Speaking after an informal meeting (Gymnich) in Prague, Borrell said the decision will make it harder and more costly for Russian citizens to enter the EU.
“It will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by the EU Member States. [The process] is going to be more difficult, it is going to be longer,” Borrell during a press conference.
According to reports, EU ministers could not agree on a blanket travel visa ban for Russians as member states have differing stances on the issue.
During the press conference, Borrell said that a substantial increase of border crossings from Russia into the EU Member States have been recorded since the middle of July.
“This has become a security risk for these neighbouring states. In addition to that, we have seen many Russians travelling for leisure and shopping, as if no war was raging in Ukraine,” he said.
Referring to the problem of the northern states that directly border Russia and which are seeing the arrival of large numbers of Russians, Borrell said that member states already have considerable autonomy when issuing visas for entry into their own territory.
“Member States have wide discretion in regulating their visa policies. Every Member State can thus also adopt and implement national measures in connection with the issuing of visas,” he said, adding that national measures must always be in accordance with the Schengen Code.
According to data released by the EU’s border guard agency Frontex, at least one million Russian citizens have entered the EU via land borders since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, most via Finland and Estonia.
Explaining the lifting of visa facilitation in more detail, Borrell said that visas will be granted on an individual basis after a thorough assessment of each individual case, and especially for specific groups of people.
“We do not want to cut ourselves from those Russians who are against the war in Ukraine. We do not want to cut ourselves from the Russian civil society,” he said.
The EU foreign ministers also agreed that passports issued by Russian authorities in occupied territories of Ukraine will not be recognised by the European Union.