Finnish, Estonian PMs both find Russian tourism in Europe should be curbed

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Finnish public broadcaster Yle that the EU should expand sanctions to limit travel by Russian citizens. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) followed up on Tuesday by calling for Schengen area countries to stop issuing them tourist visas.

"It's not right that at the same time as Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists," Marin told Yle. "It's not right."

The Finnish-Russian border reopened to tourism in July after both countries lifted COVID-related restrictions.

According to the Finnish prime minister, travel by Russian citizens has been discussed at the EU level throughout the spring, however thus far, sanctions have not been expanded to include tourism as well. She believes this discussion should be continued in the European Council.

"I believe that in future European Council meetings, this issue will come up even more strongly," she said. "My personal position is that tourism should be restricted."

Finland itself can intervene in the meantime by making it more difficult to obtain tourist visas, Yle said.

According to the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian citizens often use Finland as a transit point for travel elsewhere, but the ministry believes that Schengen rules would allow Finnish officials to prioritize family, study or work visas ahead of tourist visas.

Marin said that it's essential to determine whether legislation must be amended to allow Finland to decide its own national sanctions in exceptional situations.

"Is Finnish legislation up-to-date enough that we could introduce our own national sanctions in such a very exceptional situation?" she asked. "But I would personally like to see European solutions on this question as well."

Kallas: Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a right

Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs first announced that Estonia had temporarily suspended the issuing of tourist visas to citizens of the Russian Federation in early March.

Citing ongoing concerns regarding Russian citizens' access to Estonia due to the loophole provided by the Schengen Area, however, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said late last month that he intends to introduce a plan for pan-European restrictions on Russian citizens' travel at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague at the end of August.

On Tuesday morning, Kallas tweeted a call to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens altogether.

"Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians," the Estonian prime minister wrote. "Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right. Air travel from [Russia] is shut down. It means while Schengen countries issue visas, neighbors to Russia carry the burden ([Finland], [Estonia], [Latvia] — sole access points). Time to end tourism from Russia now."

The Schengen Area currently includes 22 of 27 EU member states — Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden — as well as non-EU states Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The European microstates of Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City are likewise de facto members as they maintain open borders for passenger traffic with their neighbors France and Italy.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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