The European Commission has urged the member states of the European Union (EU) to tighten their visa procedures and heighten border checks for Russian citizens. On Friday, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said the guidelines come in response to the recent escalation in Moscow’s ongoing war against Ukraine, reports Xinhua news agency.
“The EU will protect itself and our citizens. We are making sure to have a coherent and united approach at EU external borders vis-a-vis Russian citizens and also when it comes to applying strict rules on issuing short-stay visas for Russian citizens," she said.
Under the new rules, the EU member states should apply “stricter assessments" and security checks when they issue visas to Russian citizens. They should also apply a strict approach when assessing the justification of the journey and the validity of visas, irrespective of the issuing member state.
She said the member states should not accept Schengen visa applications from citizens of Russia who are present in a third country for short stays or for purposes of transit. Johansson explained that exceptions can be made in cases of hardship and for humanitarian reasons, such as family visits due to sudden serious illness of a relative residing in the EU, dissidents, or human rights defenders.
On similar lines, Finland on Thursday banned Russian citizens traveling with tourist visas from entering or transiting the country. The Finnish government said the move aims to “completely prevent Russian tourism". Finland had earlier pushed for an EU-wide decision and called for a total ban on Russian nationals traveling to the bloc.
While the Czech Republic and Estonia have also imposed visa restrictions, Germany and France have rejected the proposed blanket ban fearing “unintended rallying-around-the-flag effects" in Russia.