EU split over visa ban for Russian tourists

BREAK, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Germany and France have jointly warned against a ban on tourist visas for Russians, saying such a move recommended by other EU member states would have a negative effect.

The distribution of tourist visas will be at the center of the foreign ministers’ meeting in Prague on Tuesday and Wednesday. They are debating what further steps could be taken to allow Russia to continue its six-month occupation of Ukraine.

“We warn against far-reaching restrictions on our visa policy in order to prevent feeding into the Russian narrative and trigger flag effects and/or alienation of future generations,” France and Germany said in a joint note seen by Reuters.

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The Kremlin said the calls for a visa ban on Russian tourists were the latest example of the West’s anti-Russian agenda.

“Step by step, unfortunately, both Brussels and individual European capitals are demonstrating a complete lack of reason,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

“These are very serious decisions directed against our citizens and surely such decisions cannot go unanswered,” he added.

“But in responding, we will do so in a way that best serves our interests and protects the interests of our citizens”.

The EU’s two leading countries, Germany and France, have argued that Russian visa applications should be closely scrutinized for security risks, but believe the visas should still be issued.

“We must not give up supporting pro-democratic elements with Russian society,” they said. “Our visa policies must reflect that and continue to allow public contacts in the EU with Russian citizens who are not affiliated with the Russian government.

“First, we should not underestimate the transformative power of experiencing life in democratic institutions, especially for future generations,” they added.

A clear message

Others, particularly Eastern and Nordic member states, argued strongly for a ban.

“It is very provocative to me that you see Russian men on European beaches in southern Europe, while Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 cannot leave their country but must fight for their freedom,” said Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod. Last week.

“We think together in Europe we can limit and cut off tourists from Russia and that will send a clear message to (President) Putin.”

An EU diplomat and foreign ministers could agree in principle to end the visa facilitation agreement with Russia, which would mean Russians would face a longer procedure and pay 80 euros instead of 35 for EU visas, but divisions over tourist visa bans run deep. Any agreement therein.

Russians often enter the EU through the land borders of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said last week. . read more

Meanwhile, defense ministers meeting in Prague will agree in principle to a less controversial move to organize joint military training exercises for Ukrainian troops.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, said he hoped ministers would give the green light to start an EU military training mission for Ukraine.

“Many EU countries already provide training facilities for Ukrainians, but I think it would be good to ensure that the EU collectively does that in an organized way,” said Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister. In Prague.

The Netherlands also supported the idea, saying it would work with Germany on demining exercises.

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Report by Sabine Siebold, Jan Lopatka, Ingrid Melander and Bart Meijer; By Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alex Richardson and Ed Osmond

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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