Russians Face European Travel Hurdles as EU Mulls Restrictions

Russians traveling to the European Union will have to pay more and withstand additional bureaucracy to obtain a short-term visa, according to a compromise solution aimed at allaying member states’ differences on how far restrictions should go.

The Czech government, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, will propose fully suspending visa-facilitation agreements with Russia and Belarus at a meeting of foreign ministers in Prague next week, according to Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky.

That move would fall short of a ban for tourists called for by members including Estonia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It would still allow Russians and Belarusians to apply for short-term entry. But it would increase processing times for visas, require more documentation and raise costs to 80 euros ($80) from 35 euros.

Germany is among governments that have pushed back on the kind of across-the-board visa restrictions backed by the Baltic states, who have complained about an influx of Russian tourists this summer since Moscow lifted Covid-19 restrictions in July. Lipavsky acknowledged this week that member states were divided on this issue.

“Receiving a European tourism visa is a privilege, not a human right,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told journalists in Tallinn on Thursday, saying that a ban would primarily hit Russia’s “elite” traveling from Moscow and St. Petersburg. “These are people who have a greater influence on the governing regime,” Kallas said.

 

 

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