Finland to Issue Fewer Visas to Russians, Estonia Suspends them on Thursday
Finland will reduce the number of visas issued to Russians to 10% of the current level, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday.
He said that the Finnish Foreign Ministry will reduce the number of visa application interviews from September 1, which will in effect lead to fewer visas being issued to Russian citizens. Instead, Helsinki will introduce a "national humanitarian visa" that will be granted to those fleeing Russia, journalists and human rights activists. Thus, the measure will primarily affect Russian tourists.
Finland is the second European country after Estonia to announce that it will limit the travel of Russian citizens to its territory.
On Thursday, Tallinn put into effect the restrictions that prohibit entry into Estonia of Russian citizens who have a visa issued by Estonia and intend to visit the republic for tourism, business, sports or culture purposes.
"This means that if a Russian citizen, to whom Estonia has issued a Schengen visa and whose purpose of visit is tourism, business, sports or culture, arrives at the border points Narva, Luhamaa or Koidula, they will no longer be able to enter Estonia." the government press service announced on Friday.
The government clarified that Russian citizens who have been issued a visa by another Schengen country or who are already in the Schengen area can enter Estonia.
Visa applications are also limited. From August 18, it will be possible only for Russian citizens who are invited by an Estonian citizen living in Estonia or a close relative legally living in the country (for example, daughter, son, mother, father), Russian diplomats and their family members, employees in international trade and passenger transport working in Estonia, persons who can travel on the basis of European Union law and those to whom Estonia considers issuing a visa justified on humanitarian grounds.
Estonia and Finland called a week ago for the EU to limit the number of Schengen visas for Russian citizens, including banning the entry of tourists. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that visiting the EU is a privilege, not a human right.
The initiative is also supported by Latvia.
Russia's bordering Schengen states are under heavy pressure from Russian citizens wishing to travel to Europe. After the suspension of flights, they have no choice but to apply to the neighboring countries and from there continue to the interior of the EU.
According to Schengen rules, a tourist must apply for a visa from the country they intend to visit, but they can enter the Schengen area without border checks from any point and travel within it for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
EU foreign ministers will discuss at the end of the month whether or not to adopt a pan-European approach to the restrictions on issuing Schengen visas for Russian citizens. The idea has strong support from the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU Council presidency. Prague was the first capital to refuse to put visas in Russian passports after Moscow expelled almost its entire embassy and made its consular services impossible to operate.
However, Germany is against it. On Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said it would be unfair to Russian expatriates, most of whom oppose the war in Ukraine. Over 3.5 million Russian speakers live in Germany - one of the largest Russian diasporas in Europe.
The idea of denying Schengen visas to Russian citizens comes from Ukraine, which sees an opportunity for Russian citizens, deprived of travel to Europe, to put pressure on the Kremlin to end the war in Ukraine.
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