EU top diplomats divided over ban on Russian tourist visas

Germany, France oppose proposal of Estonia, Latvia, Finland on restricting tourist visas for Russian nationals.

EU top diplomats divided over ban on Russian tourist visas

Fresh sanctions on Russia will be on the agenda of EU foreign ministers on Wednesday at an informal meeting where they are expected to debate a bloc-wide ban on tourist visas for Russian nationals.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell confirmed that the top diplomats, gathered in Prague for the meeting, would assess the recent proposal of Estonia, Latvia, and Finland to ban tourist visas for Russians at the EU level.

Borrell admitted that not all member states agreed on the matter as he spoke to reporters on the way to the meeting, hosted by the Czech government which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.

However, he vowed to work "for a common position" since the EU "cannot afford to appear disunited in such an important thing which affects the people-to-people relations between the Russian society and the European one."

"I think it's important to show that while Ukrainians are suffering, tourism shouldn't continue as usual and we should be more restrictive," Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said ahead of the event.

He explained that Finland would issue only 10% of the usual number of tourist visas to Russian nationals as of Sept. 1.

Haavisto also stressed that the EU must "continue supporting Ukraine, putting pressure on Russia and addressing the wider fallout of this conflict that affects the whole world."

"We are here proposing that a similar action should be taken by the whole European Union," he asserted.

While the Baltic countries, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Denmark have lent support to the draft, Germany and France oppose it, arguing that the EU should not cut ties with the Russian population.

On the way to the meeting, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said her country prefers "to suspend to visa agreement giving preferential treatment to Russia" instead of a blanket ban on tourist visas.

Hüseyin Demir

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