EU To Suspend Visa Agreement With Russia But Will Not Ban Russians

EU To Suspend Visa Agreement With Russia But Will Not Ban Russians

European Union (EU) countries have reached a political agreement to suspend a visa facilitation agreement with Russia, making it more difficult and expensive for Russian tourists to get visas.  However, this move falls far short of the blanket ban some EU leaders are demanding.

EU foreign ministers have agreed to suspend a 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia over the country's war in Ukraine, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell announced on 31 August 2022.

“This will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by the EU member states. It's going to be more difficult, it's going to take longer,” Borrell said at the end of a two-day meeting of foreign ministers in Prague.

The decision was reached after weeks of calls from Ukrainian officials and some EU leaders for a ban. Though the 27-member bloc has already banned Russian flights from EU airspace and imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 people linked to the war, the question of tourism is deeply contested, underscoring an enduring divide over how to respond to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

What Will Change

Josep Borrell stated that an uptick in tourists from Russia convinced member states that something had to be done. “We have seen many Russians travelling for leisure and shopping as if no war was raging in Ukraine,” he told reporters in Prague.

The suspension will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued, Borrell said. “It is going to be more difficult, it’s going to be a longer process. Consequently, the number of new visitors will be substantially reduced.”

The full suspension of the 2007 visa facilitation accord, which was partially suspended at the outset of the war, will mean that wait times and costs will probably go up for Russian tourists. The cost will reportedly jump from 35 euros to 80 euros. But vacationing, for many, can continue.

Such a move would make the EU visa process more complicated, more expensive, and more bureaucratic, as well as increase waiting times for approval, according to European Commission guidelines. 

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