Reinsalu fails to convince Hungary to back Russian visa ban

Urmas Reinsalu (right) and Hungarian Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto.
Urmas Reinsalu (right) and Hungarian Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) on Tuesday failed to convince his Hungarian colleague Peter Szijjarto to back a EU visa ban for Russian citizens when the two spoke over the phone. Hungary is considered the most Russia-friendly state in Europe and has repeatedly attempted to hold back sanctions.

"Foreign policy is communication. I make my case for punishing the aggressor, which my colleagues make note of. I hope these conversations will lead to greater support for Estonia's proposal [for a Europe-wide visa ban] at upcoming meetings," Reinsalu said when asked about the results of his phone call with Szijjarto.

The Hungarian foreign minister, on the other hand, posted on social media that he is not in favor of travel restrictions.

"We also discussed a proposal regarding a tougher European visa regime for Russian citizens. We agree with the position of the German chancellor and are not planning any restrictions," Szijjarto wrote.

Chancellor Olav Scholz has said he does not support a tourism visa ban for Russian citizens and that travel restrictions could make it impossible for dissidents to escape Russia.

Szijjarto wrote on Facebook that even though Reinsalu and he agreed that the war in Ukraine needs to end as soon as possible, they disagreed on whether sanctions can help achieve that goal. Szijjarto emphasized that Hungary isn't even willing to discuss further energy sanctions, saying that sanctions cannot end up hurting Europe more than Russia and that the Hungarian people cannot be made to pay for the war.

Asked whether he has anything positive to report from his phone call, Urmas Reinsalu said its purpose is communication. "My aim is to communicate Estonia's initiatives in Europe. Inform countries for it to be reflected in future activities and for a search of common ground to follow. That's how it works."

Hungary is considered the most Russia-friendly state in Europe and has repeatedly attempted to hold back sanctions as EU foreign policy decisions need to be unanimous.

Reinsalu: Border states might go for visa ban

Reinsalu did not rule out a possibility mentioned on Tuesday by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis that should it prove impossible to find a Europe-wide solution, Member States bordering Russia might agree on a ban between them.

"I'm not ruling it out. What is more, I have been in contact with the countries' foreign ministers. Different developments are possible, including the sovereign right of states to determine who they let in," he said. "I'm sure we will discuss the Lithuanian minister's proposal."

The Estonian foreign minister said he plans to meet with his Baltic colleagues on Thursday and will probably get the chance to call the foreign ministers of Germany and EU presidency Czechia toward the evening.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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