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17 Sep, 2022 19:35

EU countries conflicted over legality of banning Russians – media

Finnish diplomats have warned the decision to deny entry to Russians based on nationality is in breach of EU laws
EU countries conflicted over legality of banning Russians – media

The Finnish Foreign Ministry considers the grounds for Estonia’s blanket ban on entry for Russian holders of tourist visas “legally questionable,” Finland’s state broadcaster Yle has reported. The ban might be both in breach of EU laws and Schengen zone rules, the diplomats believe, according to a memo prepared by the ministry for the country’s government.

“Estonia tries to appeal to the fact that Russian and Belarusian tourist visa holders threaten the country’s public order, internal security and international relations – directly on the basis of their nationality. This interpretation by Estonia can be considered legally questionable,” the memo reads, as quoted by Yle. 

Targeting Russians based on their nationality is in breach of the bloc’s rules, and Finland itself could not “prevent the entry of Russian tourist visa holders directly on the basis of nationality without violating EU law,” the memo noted. While Finnish diplomats apparently believe Estonia has violated EU laws with its visa move, Helsinki has not made any public comments on the issue. 

Estonia earlier announced the decision to deny entry to Russian tourists holding valid Schengen visas regardless of which EU country issued them. The ban is expected to kick in on Monday. A similar ban was announced by Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland earlier this month. 

While avoiding a blanket ban on Russians, Finland itself has reduced issuance of tourist visas to the country’s nationals to a small fraction of the previous numbers. The European Council subsequently suspended the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia. Although the move did not impose a direct ban on issuing visas to Russians, it increased visa application fees and processing times. 

Earlier this week, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin called for more EU sanctions, insisting that the current restrictions, including the suspension of the visa facilitation agreement, are “not enough” and the bloc should make more effort to hurt common Russians. 

“We must be ready to take more sanctions because the more impact we [have] with sanctions, the more expensive it will become for Russia to continue this war,” Marin told the European Parliament.