Estonia looks to ban Russian citizens from Europe
Estonian FM Urmas Reinsalu to propose a pan-European visa restriction against Russian citizens. The exceptions will have to sign a document denouncing the Russian President.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu stated on Friday that as a general rule, Estonia will recommend restricting Russian individuals' access to Europe.
He also argued that Estonia was ought to follow Latvia's lead which required that all Russian nationals who sought entry sign a statement denouncing the Ukraine war; this rule would need to also be applied to those seeking citizenship through naturalization.
"Russian citizens can still access Estonia even after we stopped issuing visas. They simply get another country's Schengen visa. That loophole needed to be closed," Reinsalu said on the Vikerhommik radio show.
The top diplomat stated that there were three groups of Russian citizens crossing into Estonia despite the decrease in issuing new visas that have become mostly restricted to humanitarian cases. The first group, he argued, were those visiting sick relatives. “But their numbers have fallen drastically.”
The second group has been comprised of Russian citizens that have obtained Estonian and Schengen visas that were still valid. The minister said: "Estonia has generally not revoked valid visas yet. However, this is something that needs to be considered. Estonia has issued over 50,000 valid Schengen visas for Russian citizens, which is too many.”
The third and most problematic group, Reinsalu argued, was the one that had visas from various Schengen states. "Because there is no air traffic, these people have started to cross the western border either for the purposes of tourism or something else. The airports in Tallinn and Riga are seeing the bulk of pressure. But traffic is also up in Finland. Things picked up when Russia lifted its coronavirus restrictions that had kept Russian citizens from leaving the country."
Travel restrictions for 🇷🇺 citizens should be agreed on the EU level. @MFAestonia is working on proposals for the EU to stop issuing visas to 🇷🇺 citizens. There could be humanitarian exceptions but they are to be processed separately, 🇪🇪FM @UrmasReinsalu said.@EUCouncil @EEinEU pic.twitter.com/MBtCcGkeX4— Estonia in Ukraine (@EE_Ukraine) July 26, 2022
The presence of Russian citizens in Estonia and Europe allegedly raises concerns for Reinsalu. As such he has stated that Estonia will propose to restrict Russian citizens’ access to Europe as the main Europe-wide rule.
Later in August, Reinsalu is set to meet with EU foreign ministers in Prague, where he plans to present to them the concept of the pan-European restrictions to be implemented against the three groups of Russian citizens that have access to the EU and Europe as a whole.
Schengen visa denial to Russians to prompt extremely negative response
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov touched on the issue of the Schengen region denying visas to Russians, underlining that this would prompt Moscow to take retaliatory measures.
"Of course, Russia will react extremely negatively to this. As far as we understand, so far, this decision has not found any, let's say, application ... Let's hope that it will not," he told reporters.
"But, of course, any such actions against Russian citizens will entail countermeasures and response. It is quite understandable and predictable," he added.
He also stressed that Moscow hoped the EU leadership uses reasoning and "sober thinking" regarding the issuing of Schengen visas to Russians.
The Schengen Area is an area comprising 26 European countries, namely Austria, Hungary, Norway, Belgium, Iceland, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Finland, Lithuania, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany, Malta, Switzerland, Greece, and the Netherlands.
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