EU’s Borrell rejects blanket ban on Russians entering bloc

Borrell said it was necessary to review some visa processes to certain groups of Russians but rejected a blanket ban.
Josep Borrell
Josep BorrellIANS

BRUSSELS: The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said that a complete ban on Russians entering the bloc was "not a good idea", amid reports that member states were preparing to suspend a visa agreement with Moscow.

"I am not in favour of stopping delivering visas to all Russians," Borrell told Austrian broadcaster ORF in an interview, dpa reported.

He said he didn't believe that cutting off contact with Russian civilians would have positive results, and he also said he did not believe the idea would achieve the required unanimity among member states.

Borrell said it was necessary to review some visa processes to certain groups of Russians but rejected a blanket ban.

"We have to be selective, we cannot take a general measure," he said, adding that he was sure there would be a balanced approach from EU foreign ministers due to meet in the coming week.

The idea of restricting Russian tourists to the EU has emerged recently after countries witnessed Russians arriving for summer holidays via neighbouring EU countries.

A visa issued by any one country grants access to all 26 members of the Schengen passport-free zone.

The Financial Times had earlier reported that EU member states were preparing to suspend a 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia over the Ukraine war.

EU foreign ministers are set to give the suspension political backing at a two-day informal meeting in Prague on Tuesday and Wednesday, the British newspaper said, citing three officials involved in the talks.

The move would widen the partial suspension imposed in February for Russian government officials and business leaders to now include civilian Russian applicants for EU visas, the Financial Times said.

Suspensions make the EU visa process more complicated, more expensive and more bureaucratic, as well as increasing waiting times for approval, according to European Commission guidelines.

Further measures to restrict EU travel for Russian nationals, such as a limit on the amount of EU visas to be issued or to ban travel entirely, have not been decided, the Financial Times said, citing the officials participating in the negotiations.

The Czech Republic, Finland and Estonia, after imposing their own visa restrictions, have pushed for an EU-wide decision and called for a total ban on Russian nationals travelling to the bloc.

Germany and the commission, however, have urged caution against banning tourist visas or prohibiting Russian nationals from travelling to the bloc completely. Critics have also raised humanitarian concerns.

The European Union has already slapped Russia with multiple rounds of political and economic sanctions after February's invasion of Ukraine including a ban on Russian airlines from EU airspace.

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