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President suggests tightening visa rules for Russians owning real estate in Finland

"Visas are not a subjective right," President Sauli Niinistö said on Thursday.

Sauli Niinistö pitää puhetta.
File photo of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö taken on 23 August 2022. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he would consider further tightening conditions that Russians need to meet to be granted a visa.

Niinistö noted that while rules on issuing tourist visas to Russians have already been tightened, he suggested that lawmakers should consider whether to remove a rule that makes it easier for people to obtain visas if they own real estate in Finland.

He said that if the rule was removed it could potentially have a knock-on effect of lessening the motivation of Russians — as individuals or groups — to purchase real estate or apartments in Finland.

Making the comments on Thursday at an Association of Political Journalists event, Niinistö noted that the real estate-related matter is just a detail and a minor issue of a larger picture.

The president was asked whether Finland should follow Poland and the Baltic countries and close the border to Russian's completely.

Not a subjective right

"Visas are not a subjective right. So there is room for discretion and, especially regarding tourist visas, it is quite justified to use discretion," Niinistö said.

He pointed out that other Schengen-area countries continue to issue visas to Russians, including old ones that are still valid and new ones that were approved for acceptable reasons.

"So, it's a complex matter," Niinistö said, giving an example in which one Schengen country grants a visa in Moscow but then the document is no longer considered valid when the person tries to cross the border of that country.

"It's a strange situation for Schengen countries when one accepts a visa and another refuses. From a systemic point of view, it is not really desirable," he said.

He noted that outright revoking valid visas could be illegal and "a bit too sudden" from a legal viewpoint.

Ukraine's gains

Niinistö also said Ukraine's recent military successes in counter-attacks on the invading Russian forces has encouraged Ukrainians as well as the countries that support Ukraine.

Despite those successes, the president said it was too early to talk about internal disruptions in Russia.

Niinistö also briefly discussed Finland's ongoing accession to Nato, saying that Greece and Spain, which are currently dealing with the issue, will make their decisions quickly.

Four out of the military alliance's 30 member states have yet to ratify Finland's and Sweden's membership. At least two of those countries are likely to get closer to this month, according to the Finnish president.

He said Turkey's decision on the matter is still uncertain and that Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Green) is in Hungary, where he will learn more about the situation.

Turkey has hesitated accepting Finland and Sweden from joining the alliance, since the Nordic countries announced they were applying for membership.

Haavisto is meeting with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó in Budapest on Thursday.

They are scheduled to exchange views on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Finland’s upcoming NATO membership, and bilateral relations, according to the foreign affairs ministry.

Energy crisis may prompt change in values

The president was also asked what he thinks the consequences might be from the energy crisis over the winter.

"We must be able to cope with increasing costs. It's also an opportunity for everyone to self reflect. It may be that we have to change, if not in our attitudes about life, then at least our values," he said.

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