Lithuania wants Europe-wide ban on tourist visas for Russians

Lithuania wants Europe-wide ban on tourist visas for Russians
Credit: Belga

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis is calling for a Europe-wide ban on tourist visas for Russians .

"Ideally, it should be a European-level decision that would simply abolish the validity of these visas and everyone should stop issuing them," he said on Wednesday in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

Lithuania and its Baltic neighbours, Latvia and Estonia, have largely suspended the issuance of visas and residence permits to Russians, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Estonia has gone one step further: from 18 August, it will also close its borders to Russian citizens traveling on a Schengen visa issued by Estonia.

However, Landsbergis doubts the effectiveness of the measure because Russians can still enter with a visa issued by another Schengen country.

"A Russian citizen today can get a visa at the German consulate in any Russian city and travel via Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland,to wherever they want to go for a holiday," the minister said.

Finland is also advocating a European approach. Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto announced on Tuesday that his country wants to provide only ten percent of the current number of visas to Russians from September.

According to Haavisto, this is because many Russian tourists are using Finland and its airport in Helsinki as a gateway to European vacation orders after Russia lifted travel restrictions due to the coronavirus.

The Czech Republic, which currently holds the presidency of the EU Councils of Ministers, wants to raise the issue at an informal meeting of foreign ministers in Prague at the end of this month.

However, the European Commission and Germany are opposed to a blanket ban on tourist visas for Russians. The war is not the Russian people's war, but Putin's, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday.

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