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EU suspends visa agreement with Russia

EU suspends visa agreement with Russia

The foreign policy official said that EU foreign ministers will have to reach an agreement on issuing visas to Russian tourists

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell (Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images)

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that EU foreign ministers will have to reach agreement on the issue of the Russian tourist visa when they meet in Prague today.

Speaking before an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers on Wednesday, Borrell said the issue of the visa ban was “the most important issue on the table”.

“It was discussed calmly this week,” he said, but added that there are different positions on the issue among member states.

“We cannot seem detached about something as important as the personal relations between Russian society and European peoples,” Borrell said.

One of the proposals made by Eastern European countries is to prevent Russian tourists from entering the European Union. But reaching consensus among the EU’s 27 countries may prove difficult.

In a memorandum distributed before the meeting and drafted by France and Germany, Paris and Berlin urged a more cautious approach to far-reaching changes in EU visa policy “to avoid fueling the Russian narrative and inducing involuntary focus around science and/or alienating future generations.”

“While we understand the concerns of some member states in this context, we should not underestimate the transformative power of the experience of life in democracies,” the memo said.
Adding that EU visa policies “should reflect this and continue to allow contacts between people in the EU with Russian citizens not associated with the Russian government.”

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More on Wednesday’s meeting: The EU is expected to discuss various ways to deal with the issue, from suspending a visa agreement with Russia – which would make travel to the EU more expensive and complicated for Russian citizens – to a complete travel ban.

Today’s meeting is informal, and any agreement must be approved by the Council of the European Union or by the ambassadors of the European Union.

Today, Borrell noted, there will be “only discussion, no decisions.”

In a tweet on Wednesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had met Dutch Foreign Minister Wupke Hoekstra in Prague and thanked him for the “principled position on the need to restrict travel” of “Russians to the EU”.