Former foreign minister: Russian travel in EU undermining sanctions

Former foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center).
Former foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Former foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said that she supports an EU-wide entry ban on Russian citizens, adding that it must be explained to countries against the move, such as Germany, that Russia is an aggressor state.

"It's definitely very important that we continue imposing restrictive measures," Liimets told ERR on Friday. "When I myself was foreign minister [through June 3], we introduced visa restrictions, and Estonia as a border country certainly has a significant role here. It's definitely worth proceeding with these restrictions, because as we can see, hostilities have continued."

She clarified that this discussion is clearly focused first and foremost on tourist visas. "Certain exceptions are justified, of course — humanitarian exceptions, visiting family," she acknowledged, adding that all exceptions must be carefully considered.

Liimets said that it's critical that EU member states achieve a unified position, and that the matter needs to be explained to partners as well in order to get them on board with it, as only a joint restriction will be effective.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday that he does not support banning tourist visas for Russian citizens.

"It needs to be explained to Germany that Russia is the aggressor state in this war [against Ukraine]," Liimets said. "And for so long as hostilities by the Putin regime continue, we have to continue putting pressure on Russia to end this war as well. This has to be explained consistently, just as it has to be clearly shown how current frequent travel [by Russian citizens in the EU] is undermining sanctions we've imposed as well, such as sanctions on luxury goods."

Center Party board member and MEP Yana Toom, meanwhile, was critical of the visa ban, calling the situation "absurd" in an appearance on ETV+'s "Suvine Horisont" this week. Toom was also skeptical that the EU would reach an agreement regarding a visa ban for Russian citizens.

Ratas: I support travel ban for supporters of aggression

Center Party chair and President of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas said this week that EU member states should cooperate on this issue.

"It would be better and legally more clear if European and Schengen states managed to agree on a common approach," Ratas said. "These discussions should certainly continue."

He did not say, however, that he supported a blanket visa ban for all Russian citizens. "I support the tightening of sanctions, including a travel ban, that would prevent people who support or participate in Russian aggression from entering Europe as a tourist or for any other purpose," Ratas said.

The Estonian government announced Thursday that it would be banning the entry of Russian citizens with Estonian-issued visas into the country. The ban enters into effect next Thursday, August 18.

'War museum would be appropriate place for Narva tank'

On the subject of the Soviet tank memorial located on the Estonian bank of the Narva River, the planned removal of which has sparked an ongoing controversy in Estonia, Liimets said that such a symbol of war has no place in public.

"It should certainly be removed from the public space there," the former foreign minister said. "If there is a place for it anywhere and if interested parties exist that deem it necessary, then a war museum would be an appropriate place for a historical war machine such as this."

She added that it's awful that people have come to believe as though the tank monument in question were a cultural object or cultural cultural monument. "This war machine certainly shouldn't be that in Estonia," she said.

According to Liimets, Estonia is too late with the education and inclusion that should have taken place among Narva residents regarding the removal of the tank. "But that definitely needs to continue to be consistently done, so that the people of Narva can identify with Estonia, not with symbols of occupation," she added.

'Tank T-34'

Known colloquially simply as the Narva tank, "Tank T-34" is a monument located on the left bank of the Narva River marking the spot where Soviet forces crossed the river to repel occupying German forces from the city.

It is located approximately halfway between Narva-Jõesuu and Narva's city center in Siivertsi, within the borders of the city of Narva.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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