EU presidency advocates ‘straightforward signal’ to Russians
The Czech government will push for an EU-wide ban on Russian travelers during a ministerial summit in late August, the country’s foreign minister, Jan Lipavsky, has said.
The proposal is aimed at adding to the list of sanctions imposed on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.
Prague currently holds the bloc's rotating presidency.
“We are convinced as a government that halting visas for ordinary Russian citizens gives a very clear and straightforward signal to Russian society,” Lipavsky told Politico magazine on Thursday. He said Russians “should realize that such a militant policy has consequences.”
The politician said he would propose the measure at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on August 31 in Prague.
“We are trying to explain to our partners that the approach is justified and effective,” Lipavsky said. He also argued that a visa ban could help “decrease the influence of the Russian secret service in the EU.”
The European bloc has been imposing sanctions and cutting ties with Moscow since Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in late February. Prague stopped accepting visa applications from Russian citizens shortly after the hostilities began.
Latvia stopped issuing visas to nearly all Russians earlier this month, citing security concerns. Estonia said on Thursday it would do the same, as well as banning Russian citizens who hold Estonian visas from entering the country from August 18.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas urged EU member states last week to stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. “Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” she stated.
Berlin, however, opposes a full ban on issuing visas to Russians. “Contacts with civil society, especially its part that it is open to the EU and critical of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, remains important,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement to newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Thursday.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also voiced skepticism about a blanket ban, citing “very far-reaching sanctions” imposed on Russia and saying that a visa ban would weaken their effectiveness “if it was directed against everyone, including innocent people.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, meanwhile, backed the banning of all Russians from entering the EU. “Let Russian tourists enjoy Russia,” he wrote on Twitter.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the calls to ban all Russians from traveling to the EU were signs of “flagrant nationalism” and xenophobia.
“I think common sense will take action over time, and those making such statements will come to their senses,” Dmity Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said on the matter this week.