Kallas: Russian visa ban is Kremlin's Achilles' heel
The Russian elite's critical reaction to calls to ban Schengen visas for Russians shows it is an effective sanction tool, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Friday. It is also fair, as only three countries shoulder the burden.
Opinion is split within the European Union over a potential Russian Schengen visa ban. On Thursday, Estonia said it will implement its own ban on August 18.
While Estonia, Latvia and Finland are pushing for the rules to be rolled out across the EU, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was against such a move yesterday. Today, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky came out in support.
"We will continue these negotiations. The foreign ministers have a meeting at the end of August and this topic is very much on the agenda. What must be understood is that only 10 percent of the Russian population travels abroad and it is these people, who are mainly from Moscow and St. Petersburg, whose opinion matters. This is also shown by Russia's very painful reaction to this proposal," Kallas told ERR.
Former Russian president and deputy chairman of its Security Council Dmitry Medvedev attacked Kallas over the move earlier this week after she wrote on social media that "visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right".
"It shows that this is the Achilles' heel. This is something that they are really afraid of, so it is effective," she said.
"And the fact that they once again attack me personally, that they pay so much attention to me, that Russia did not consider it necessary to pay [much attention to] any Estonian politician before, suggests that we must continue to fight for a just cause," Kallas said.
The prime minister has previously been verbally attacked by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
Finland, Estonia, Latvia carry visa burden
Estonia, Latvia and Finland carry the biggest burden of Russian tourists traveling to Europe, Kallas said, adding it is fair to stop issuing Schengen visas.
"Europe has banned air travel from Russia to Europe. This means that the only way Russian people can get to Europe is through three countries — Finland, Estonia and Latvia. So it's not quite fair that all the other Schengen countries give out these visas, but actually the three of us carry the burden," said Kallas.
She suggested Finland may also follow Estonia's decision in the future.
"If you look at the Finnish media and public opinion, then these discussions are going on in Finland. It is true that decision-making in Finland generally takes more time, but that's how democracy works, so, yes, these discussions are going on in Finland," said Kallas.
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Editor: Helen Wright