Germany offers compromise on EU visas for Russians

AFP , Tuesday 30 Aug 2022

Germany on Tuesday put forward a compromise on the fraught issue of whether the EU should block Russian tourists from travelling to the bloc.

File Photo A Russian tourist holding a bottle of champagne walks past police officers securing the bridge leading to the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Sept. 23, 2020. AP


"I think we can find a good solution in Prague" during a two-day EU foreign ministers meeting starting Tuesday, Germany's chief diplomat, Annalena Baerbock, said.

Speaking at a German government retreat outside Berlin, Baerbock said she would suggest getting rid of fast-tracked visas and multiple-entry visas while stopping short of an outright ban on Russian tourist arrivals.

The idea to outlaw Russian tourists from Europe has divided EU nations, with some in full support and others fearing it would shut the door on dissident Russians fleeing abroad.

The European Union has already slapped an array of sanctions on Moscow in response to the launch of Russia's offensive on pro-Western Ukraine on February 24.

These measures include suspending visa facilitation for Russian official delegations and business leaders. However visitors on short stays are still allowed to travel to the bloc.

Although Ukraine and some of its close allies have called for Russian tourists to be banned completely from the EU, a more symbolic suspension of a deal that facilitates visa applications is expected.

Baerbock said the EU would have to balance the varying interests of its members, including Baltic states with Russian-speaking minorities versus countries that have long been tourist destinations for "Russian citizens who are very, very close to the Russian regime".

Baerbock urged her counterparts to back a limited measure that would ensure "persecuted" people could get out of Russia quickly, noting that such applicants shouldn't be "punished".

She said this did not only include famous dissidents but also "students who have the courage at their university to get their information elsewhere".

Baerbock said Berlin's proposal put it "pretty much in the middle between those who say there shouldn't be any visas at all anymore and those who say we should just keep going on as we have done".

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