Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) EU ministers of foreign affairs agreed to make it more difficult for Russian citizens to travel to the bloc.
While some EU member states and Ukraine called for an EU-wide visa ban, the ministers did not support the move but decided to tighten travel rules on Wednesday, according to Reuters reporting.
Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland welcomed the plan as a move in the right direction and called for more measures to lower the number of Russian citizens visiting the bloc.
In a joint statement, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland noted “until such measures are in place on the EU level, we… will consider introducing on the national level temporary measures of visa ban, or restricting border crossing for Russian citizens holding EU visas, in order to address imminent public security issues.”
Alexander Grushko, Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, warned that the move will have consequences. “If Brussels decides to shoot themselves in the foot once again, this is their choice,” he concluded.
Jan Lipavský, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced the European Commission would look for more ways to target Russian citizens, including those who already have Schengen visas.
EC announces more changes
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, noted that the move “will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by the EU member states… it’s going to be more difficult, it’s going to take longer.”
He added that the number of border crossings from Russia to the EU increased substantially since mid-July, which he sees as the reason to change travel rules.
He described higher influx of Russian citizens as “a security risk,” but noted “we have seen many Russians travelling for leisure and shopping as if no war was raging in Ukraine.”
According to the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency, more than one million Russian citizens entered the EU through land border crossings since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials repeatedly stressed the importance of making all Russians pay for the war launched by their government.
France and Germany pushed back, warning in a joint statement against “far-reaching restrictions on our visa policy, in order to prevent feeding the Russian narrative and triggering unintended rallying-around the flag effects and/or estranging future generations.”