‘Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right’: EU countries closing their doors to Russian tourists | World

Almost six months after the start of the invasion of Ukraine ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the doors of some European Union (EU) countries are starting to close to Russian citizens.

The Estonian and Finnish governments are leading an initiative that seeks to prevent Russian tourists from accessing the Schengen area of ​​free movement, which includes 22 European Union member countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

“It is not right for Russian citizens to be able to travel, enter the European Schengen area, be tourists, see the landscapes, while Russia is killing people in Ukraine. This is wrong,” the first said on Tuesday. -Finnish Minister Sanna Marin during a press conference in Oslo, the capital of Norway.

Her position was reinforced by the Estonian Prime Minister, who wrote on Twitter:

“Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right.”

“It’s time to end Russia’s tourism now.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has banned flights to and from Russia.

But land borders remained open, so many Russians traveled overland to Finland and Estonia, two European Union countries with which Russia borders, and from there took flights to other destinations in the Schengen area.

Last week, Finnish public broadcaster YLE reported that Russian companies are offering ground transfers from St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, to airports in Helsinki and Lappeenranta, Finland, from where they can fly to various European destinations.

‘Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right’, tweeted Kaja Kallas — Photo: GETTY IMAGES/via BBC

Restrictions on movement

Some European Union countries, such as Latvia, have started to suspend issuing visas to Russian tourists due to the war, but these measures are ineffective without a decision that affects all members of the Schengen area.

Spain is a favorite destination for Russian tourists — Photo: GETTY IMAGES/via BBC

According to the rules of this free movement zone, tourists must apply for a visa from the country they intend to visit, but when they obtain it, they can enter the Schengen area through any of the member countries and travel freely for 90 days during a period of 180 days.

Spain, Italy and Greece are the three countries that most issue tourist visas to Russian citizens.

Last month, Finland and Estonia appealed to jointly address the issue within the European Union, to close what they see as a “loophole” in the sanctions imposed on Russia that allows its citizens to travel by land while banned. to fly or travel by train to the European Union.

In the case of Finland, which had suspended the issuance of visas to Russian citizens due to the covid-19 pandemic, it resumed issuing them last July, although in much lower amounts than it issued before.

However, the government has already announced plans to reduce the number of appointments for visa applications in Russia – from 1,000 to 500 a day, of which only 100 will be for tourists.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that the issue of visas for Russian citizens should be discussed by the European Union.

As reported by broadcaster YLE, this should happen on August 31, during the summit of European foreign ministers.

“I think that in future meetings of the European Council, this theme will come up even more strongly. My personal position is that tourism should be restricted,” Marin told YLE.

Objections in Moscow… and Germany

Calls to ban Russian tourism have sparked outrage in Russia, not just the Kremlin.

On social media, some opposition figures questioned the idea, saying it fuels the government’s anti-Western propaganda — and does not facilitate a solution to the conflict in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the move, saying that in time “common sense will manifest itself and those who have made such statements will come to their senses”.

The proposal also met strong resistance from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz opposes vetoing Russian tourists — Photo: GETTY IMAGES/via BBC

“This is not the Russian people’s war. This is Putin’s war, and we have to be very clear on this issue,” Scholz said during an interview with journalists in Norway’s capital Oslo on Tuesday.

“It is important that we understand that there are many people fleeing Russia because they disagree with the Russian regime,” he added.

But those who defend the ban are not oblivious to these nuances, as the Finnish prime minister herself has indicated.

“It’s not a black and white issue, there are also different shades of gray. There are also a lot of people in Russia who are against the war, who are under threat…”, he said.

To solve this dilemma, Finland is considering creating a humanitarian visa that could be granted to Russian citizens who need to flee the country or travel to Europe to participate in activities related to pressure groups or journalistic work.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has a very clear position on the issue, which he expressed last Monday in an interview with the American newspaper The Washington Post.

Your opinion? All western countries should close their doors to Russian tourists.

This text was originally published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/internacional-62602189

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