A memo from France and Germany states that France believes the move would alienate West-bound citizens.
Politico reports that the EU’s member countries are set to strike a deal to speed up the issuing visas for Russian citizens and make it more expensive than banning them all.
A memo obtained by the outlet shows that Germany and France claimed, before informal talks between EU defense and foreign ministry ministers in Prague, that they would not ban visas for Russian citizens from the West and create a divide among some other members of the bloc.
“While limiting contacts with regime representatives and authorities to areas of vital EU interest, we need to strategically fight for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Russian population – at least the segments not yet completely estranged from ‘the West,’” Paris and Berlin reportedly stated.
This has apparently disappointed a few EU countries that want to take tougher sanctions against Russia in the midst of the Ukraine conflict. Kaja Kallas, Estonian Prime Minister, told Politico visa restrictions will not harm Russia but the EU. The ban is “Russia is scared of something” because it affects the elite, she said.
But the visa debate is far from settled. According to reports, a group of Russia hawks intends to have talks with the Czech delegation before Prague. According to two of Politico’s sources, the jury is still out on how aggressive their stance will be.
Germany and France spoke out against a strict approach in the memo, saying they “wish to maintain a legal framework that allows in particular students, artists, scholars, professionals – independent of whether they are at risk of prosecution on political grounds – to travel to the EU.”
Josep Borrell, EU’s chief of foreign policy, stated Sunday that a total ban on visas for Russians would not be supported unanimously in the bloc. “It is time to overhaul the visa process for some Russians. [not]They are the oligarchs. It is necessary to select more. Although I don’t support stopping visas being sent to Russians at all,” he stated at the time.
On Sunday, the Financial Times reported that EU member countries plan to endorse a suspension from the 2007 EU Russia visa facilitation agreement. This will complicate, make it more expensive and take longer for EU citizens to apply for visas. A variety of countries have stopped issuing Russian citizens visas, such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Czech Republic.
Commenting on the visa ban proposals discussed at the EU level, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said these types of initiatives “don’t smell too good,” while expressing hope that common sense would eventually prevail.