Finland continues to discuss how to restrict visas for Russian tourists without banning them them, and it seems that the Finns have found a way that does not contradict their obligations under the Schengen Agreement.
A formal discussion within the country should take place on Tuesday. Recall that a fundamentally anti-Russian position was taken by Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP), who earlier called for a pan-European decision to restrict entry into the Schengen zone for Russian tourists. However, the EU plans to discuss this issue only in October, before which much can change. And not all countries, obviously, will agree with this – the details are in the material “The countries of Europe that will not ban visas for Russians are named.”
However, without waiting for a common decision, an original way to “marine” Russian tourists was proposed, for example, by the head of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, Pekka Haavisto. He recommends that the Consulates for tourist visas only have one day to submit documents per week. “In practice, this may mean that you can apply for a tourist visa on Mondays, and from Tuesday to Friday you can apply for a visa for family reasons, study, work or other good reasons,” he said. Thus, from the minister's point of view, the number of those wishing to apply for visas will be significantly reduced due to huge queues. In addition, such a measure can be easily adopted at the level of Finnish legislation itself.
The problem – from the point of view of the Finns – is that, to put it mildly, not all EU countries unconditionally support a visa ban for Russian tourists. Timo Miettinen, academician of the University of Helsinki, told the national news agency Yle that Russian tourists are so important to the economies of many EU countries that it will be difficult to achieve a unanimous decision. “On travel restrictions for ordinary Russians, at the moment there is no full support in Europe among the 27 member states,” he said.
Another Finnish expert, Jussi Lassila, a senior fellow at the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs, also said that “access to the West is an important lifeline for the Russian opposition as well”, so wide-ranging visa bans are “counterproductive”. The measures that this expert advises to take are aimed at separating the “sheep from the goats” – in particular, it is proposed to increase visa fees and send them to help Ukraine, as well as “to remind tourists of the battles when they pass the Finnish border.” Also, the Finnish expert was forced to admit that such a measure would not work to incite mass protests in Russia – most Russians have never traveled abroad and are not going to, Lassila said.
At the same time, he is sure that the EU decision will be made “after calm reflection, and not in a fit of emotion. However, it should be noted that at the moment the EU is chaired by the Czech Republic, whose Foreign Minister, Jan Lipavsky, has already stated that the Czech Republic is in favor of the abolition of tourist visas as an effective sanction against Russia. And the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry intends to present this issue to the EU foreign ministers already at an informal meeting in Prague at the end of August.
In turn, Mr. Lassila announced the following: “I would like the conditions for issuing tourist visas tightened up. But this is different from completely refusing to issue visas, ”he said.
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