Finland continues to debate how to limit visas for Russian tourists without banning them, and it seems that the Finns have found a way that does not conflict with their obligations under the Schengen Agreement.
An official discussion within the country should take place on Tuesday. It will be recalled that Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) took a fundamentally anti-Russian position, who previously called for a pan-European decision to restrict entry to the Schengen zone for Russian tourists. However, the EU plans to discuss this issue only in October, by which time a lot may change. However, not all countries will agree with this.
However, without waiting for a general decision, an original way to “ban” Russian tourists was proposed, for example, by the head of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto. He recommends setting aside only one day per week for the submission of documents at the Consulates for tourist visas. “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, study, work, or other valid reasons,” he said. Thus, in the view of the minister, the number of people willing to apply for visas will significantly decrease due to huge queues. In addition, such a measure can be taken without problems at the level of Finnish legislation itself.
The problem, from the Finns’ point of view, is that not all EU countries unconditionally support the visa ban for Russian tourists. As Timo Miettinen, an academician of the University of Helsinki told the Yle national news agency, Russian tourists are so important to the economy of many EU countries that it will be difficult to reach a unanimous decision. “Regarding travel restrictions for ordinary Russians, there is currently no full support in Europe among the 27 member states,” he said.
Another Finnish expert, Jussi Lassila, a senior researcher at the Institute of Foreign Affairs of Finland, also said that “access to the West is an important lifeline for the Russian opposition as well,” and therefore large-scale visa bans are “counterproductive.” The measures that this expert advises to take are aimed at separating the “lambs from the goats” – in particular, it is proposed to increase visa fees and direct them to help Ukraine, as well as “to remind tourists about the war when they cross the Finnish border.” Also, the Finnish expert had to admit that such a measure will not work to incite mass protests in Russia – most Russians have never traveled abroad and are not going to, said Lassila.
At the same time, he is confident that the EU will make a decision “after calm deliberation, and not in an attack of emotions.” However, it should be noted: that the Czech Republic currently presides over the EU, whose Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky has already stated that the Czech Republic advocates canceling tourist visas as an effective sanction against Russia (details here). And the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry intends to submit this issue to the EU foreign ministers already at an informal meeting in Prague at the end of August.
In turn, Mr. Lassila voiced the following: “I would like the conditions for issuing tourist visas to be strengthened. But this is different from a complete refusal to issue visas,” he said.
DIP previously reported that Estonia is closing its borders to citizens of Russia with a Schengen visa.