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Haavisto: EU may reconsider Russian visa restrictions this autumn

Finland has been at the forefront in limiting visas for Russians, the foreign minister said.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (in the middle) spoke on Wednesday with his Danish and Slovenian counterparts Jeppe Kofod (on the left) and Tanja Fajon. Image: Martin Divisek / EPA
Yle News

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) said that the European Union has taken a step "in the right direction" by making it harder for Russians to enter the bloc.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Prague on Wednesday agreed to make it somewhat more difficult for Russians to enter the EU, but failed to reach a consensus on an outright ban on tourist visas.

In response to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, ministers agreed to freeze a 2007 agreement to ease travel between Russia and Europe. It had allowed Russians to obtain visas faster and at a low cost.

The visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia will be suspended within the next few weeks. Ministers also agreed that multiple-entry visas will not be granted as readily as in the past.

Haavisto said that Finland has been one of the countries leading the way in limiting visas for Russians, along with the Baltic states.

Several EU countries bordering on Russia have backed Ukraine's request to stop granting tourist visas to Russian citizens.

Haavisto briefed his EU colleagues on Finland's recent decision to cut the number of tourist visas to some 90 percent. He noted that Finland will continue to allow Russians to enter for studies, work or family visits, for instance.

"Heading in the right direction"

Haavisto said that the EU may well reconsider the visa issue during the autumn.

"We're heading in the right direction. In a couple of months we'll see if this was sufficient," he told Yle in Prague.

Haavisto said that if another country aims to completely block Russians from entering, Finland would not want to allow them to do so through Finland. The Schengen area allows passport-free travel through 22 EU countries and four other European countries, including neighbouring Norway.

Haavisto said that the ministerial meeting helped to rouse other member states to realize how important the issue is for those bordering on Russia.

"I'm pleased that the matter was brought forth so clearly," Haavisto said.

According to Haavisto, unlike some other countries, Finland does not see Russian tourists as a security issue, but rather as an ethical one. While Finland is trying to help Ukraine in every way, this is not the time for Russians to be enjoying luxury vacations abroad, he said.

A day earlier, Haavisto said that his ministry is considering a new type of humanitarian visa for Russian dissidents.

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