Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has called for an EU-wide decision on limiting entry into the Schengen countries by Russian tourists.
The premier commented for the first time on the issue, which has been much discussed in recent weeks in Finland.
“It’s not right that at the same time as Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists. It's not right,” Marin told Yle.
Marin, whose summer holidays ended on Thursday, was interviewed by Yle on Tuesday at Kesäranta, her official residence in Helsinki.
The Finnish-Russian border opened to tourism in July after both countries lifted coronavirus restrictions.
Marin said she hopes that EU countries will decide on the issue together, as it is possible to cross the Finnish border with a visa from any Schengen country.
The 26 Schengen countries include 22 EU states as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
In recent weeks, some have accused the government of being caught off-guard by the issue of Russian tourists. However, according to Marin, this was not the case, as travel by Russians had been discussed at EU summits throughout the spring.
So far, sanctions have not been extended to cover tourism. In Marin’s opinion, the discussion should be continued in the European Council.
"I believe that in future European Council meetings, this issue will come up even more strongly. My personal position is that tourism should be restricted,” she said.
Finland could slow processing of Russian tourist visas
In the meantime, Finland can intervene in the situation itself by making it more difficult to obtain tourist visas, as Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) has suggested. In the Foreign Ministry’s view, Schengen rules would allow Finnish officials to prioritise family, study or work visas ahead of tourist visas for the time being, for example.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry said that many Russians who obtain Finnish tourist visas are in fact just using Finland as a transit point for holiday travel elsewhere.
According to Marin, there is an ongoing discussion of the issue within the cabinet, as well as studies clarifying the legal basis for restricting entry.
She added that it is essential to determine whether legislation must be changed so that Finland can decide on its own national sanctions in exceptional situations.
"Is Finnish legislation up-to-date enough that we could introduce our own national sanctions in such a very exceptional situation? But I would personally like to see European solutions to this question as well,” said Marin.