Germany weighs in on EU visa ban for Russians
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said “it is hard to imagine” that Schengen visas for Russians would be banned. He was commenting on a proposal by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and supported by Baltic states as well as Finnish politicians.
Speaking to journalists during a federal press conference on Thursday, the German leader said that the responsibility for the conflict in Ukraine lies with the Russian government and not its people.
“Therefore, I find it hard to imagine such reflections,” Scholz said about a complete visa ban for Russian citizens. He explained that the EU has already introduced extensive sanctions against wealthy Russians for their supposed links to the government, and claimed that Germany will most likely continue to do so. However, he stated, it would “not be justified” to impose penalties on all Russians.
On Tuesday, an EU official also expressed the bloc’s reluctance to close its borders to all Russian travelers. “You don’t want to completely ban all Russians from traveling to the EU. How are we going to engage at all?” the anonymous official told Financial Times, adding that those who are not in favor of the military operation in Ukraine “need to be able to travel too.”
Earlier this week, politicians from Estonia and Finland echoed a demand by Zelensky to stop issuing tourist visas to all Russians. “Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” argued Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, stating that it is “time to end tourism from Russia now.”
Finnish PM Sanna Marin supported the notion, saying it was “not right” that Russians “can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists,” while Moscow engaged in a military conflict with Ukraine.
Moscow has called the proposed measure “delirious” and “irrational,” and said the idea was reminiscent of sentiments that were heard “literally 80 years ago from certain countries in the heart of Europe,” as stated by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also pointed out that a complete visa ban for Russian travelers would go against the EU’s own rules and obligations, which state that entry to the bloc cannot be denied on the basis of nationality.
“This would kill the whole idea of democracy, liberalism, freedom and, as they say ‘zero tolerance’ [of] xenophobia, nationalism and so on,” Zakharova said in an interview on Tuesday. “If any EU countries do this, they will instantly admit their own nationalism, and no cosmetics will cover it up.”
While most EU states remain skeptical of the proposed visa ban, Germany’s Secretary of State Steffen Hebestreit has said that the measure will nevertheless be one of the topics discussed during the bloc’s deliberations on the next package of anti-Russia sanctions.