Brussels shies away from total Russian EU visa ban

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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday poured cold water on a proposal to implement a complete ban on Russian travelers into the EU.

Forbidding all Russians from entering the EU “is not a good idea,” Borrell said. “We have to be more selective.”

Speaking during a university conference in Spain, Borrell said the idea pushed by senior politicians in Kyiv and various EU countries was “quite controversial,” adding that it would create division between capitals, as some introduced travel bans without addressing it at EU level.

Borrell added that Russian oligarchs were already banned from entering EU territory as part of various sanctions packages, but cautioned against extending the proposal to all Russians because “there are many Russians who want to flee their country because they don’t want to live in this situation.”

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“More than 300,000 Russians have [fled] their country because they don’t want to live under the rule of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. Are we going to close the door to these Russians? I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said.

Borrell’s remarks come as EU foreign ministers are set to discuss banning travel visas in Prague next week, with the issue causing friction between EU countries.

Cyprus and Greece have joined German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s position in opposing a block on visas for Russian tourists, while other countries led by the Baltics, Finland and the Czech Republic have been calling for a full travel ban, echoing pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In an interview with POLITICO, Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu renewed calls to slash Schengen visas for Russians, while the Kremlin is committing “genocide” in Ukraine.

On Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky reiterated demands to suspend the EU’s visa facilitation agreements with Russia and Belarus, which simplified the procedure for issuing visas.