Estonia will be able to bar entry to Russians with Schengen visas issued by other EU Member States as the EU's treaties allow such a step, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsau (Isamaa) said on Wednesday.
Estonia has invalidated tourist visas it has issued to Russian citizens and those holding them will not be able to enter the country from August 18.
The government now wants to go further and ban Russian tourists with Schengen visas issued by all EU countries.
A proposal will be formalized by the end of the week, Veiko Kommusaar, undersecretary for internal security of the Ministry of the Interior, told ERR on Wednesday.
Reinsalu told ERR an EU-wide ban is a reasonable goal and experts are analyzing the technical aspects.
He said it is allowed under European Union law, adding one example is the coronavirus pandemic when Member States closed their own borders to citizens of other countries.
"EU law even allows prohibiting the EU's own citizens from entering certain Member States. We all remember how countries not only closed the EU foreign border but also internal ones. The EU founding treaty provides possible exceptions following public order, security, which is the case here, but also public health considerations. The precedent allowed very extensive restrictions to be ordered. The number of Russian citizens that had entered the EU by the end of the first week of august (850,000) is unfortunately growing, which is why we need to be able to take steps to support Ukraine's victory," Reinsalu said.
Reinsalu said the ultimate goal is a pan-European visa ban for Russian citizens and work is being undertaken to achieve this.
"Our aim is definitely to achieve a Europe-wide agreement to restrict Russian citizens' access to the EU. We are working on finding common ground with states that have a land border with Russia. As concerns closing the Estonian land border, our experts are working on it," he said.
Reinsalu met with Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto on Wednesday. Both Estonia and Finland have already taken steps to limit the number of Russians entering their countries and agree on an EU-wide ban, along with Latvia and Lithuania.
Visa ban enters into force on August 18
Russian citizens holding Estonian-issued Schengen visas will not be allowed to enter the country tomorrow.
A number of exceptions have been created, which are listed below.
- To visit a close relative who lives in Estonia and is an Estonian citizen or has a long-term residence permit;
- Russian diplomats working in Estonia and their family members;
- Staff working in the international transport of goods and passengers;
- Individuals who are allowed entry based on European Union law;
- People who Estonia considers eligible for a visa on humanitarian grounds.
Reinsalu to Haavisto: We must stop entry to the EU for Russian nationals
Reinsalu met with Haavisto to discuss bilateral relations, Ukraine and Russian sanctions.
The Estonian minister emphasized Russian citizens must be stopped from entering the EU for as long as the war in Ukraine continues. Sanctions need to strengthen too, he said.
"Next we will propose the EU stops issuing Schengen visas to the citizens of the aggressor state," Reinsalu said.
A tribunal should also be set up to investigate the crimes of aggression committed by Russia.
"Russia must answer for its genocidal war in Ukraine and Estonia is tirelessly advocating for establishing the special tribunal," Reinsalu said.
Editor: Helen Wright