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Finland ponders visa-free travel for Russian officials

Finland is considering granting visa-free travel to holders of Russian official passports. Russians are concerned that such a practice would introduce an element of elitism into travel between the two countries.

Venäjän passi naisen kädessä.
Ordinary Russian citizens will continue to have to apply for a Visa to enter Finland. Image: Yle

Finland’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that it has entered into negotiations with the European Union and Russia, to grant visa-free travel to the holders of Russian passports traveling on government business.

However the proposal has generated mixed feelings among Russians themselves. Opponents of the plan fear that visa-free travel for officials could open the door to corruption, possibly allowing unscrupulous officials to travel freely within Europe, while ordinary citizens are relegated to queuing for visas.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry has issued assurances that procedures will be introduced to monitor the use of official passports.

“Of course in theory it could be possible to grant official passports to the wrong recipients. However we will agree on the appropriate use of such passports in the negotiations ahead of the final agreement. In other words, Russia must commit to abide by the agreed procedures. We will also be able to intervene in cases where the passports are misused,” said Foreign Secretary Kim Kuivalainen.

Official passports are issued to government workers traveling abroad on state assignments. According to Russian media sources, the country currently has about 200,000 holders of official passports. The right to visa-free travel will be granted to just 15,000.

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