Läänemets: If EU lacks visa ban consensus, it'll be up to border states
Should the EU as a whole fail to reach an agreement regarding restricting the entry of Russian citizens, then countries along the Russian border will have to act separately, Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said.
"Thus far, the EU has been unified, but if it isn't, then those countries bordering Russia will have to make a decision and close their own borders," Läänemets said in an appearance on ETV's "Terevisioon" on Wednesday morning.
According to Läänemets, an average of 600 Russian citizens enter Estonia per day, the majority of whom then travel onward elsewhere.
He said that he has been in touch with his Baltic and Finnish colleagues and hopes to speak with his Norwegian counterpart soon as well to seek legal solutions for preventing Russian citizens' travel to Europe. The minister said that various possibilities have been discussed, and much depends on each individual country's own respective laws — whether a country can impose sanctions of its own as well.
"But this is a matter of principle too — if people in Ukraine are dying [as a result of Russian aggression], then the people who are responsible for that should not be able to come shop and have fun in Europe," he stressed.
Asked what would happen if Estonia were to decide independently to close its borders to Russian citizens with Schengen visas, Läänemets said that this would surely be followed by the launch of infringement proceedings by the European Commission along with other procedures.
"But as this will is significantly greater if we do this together with other countries, we can discuss this in Europe and that's a good thing — to initiate this discussion in a new way," he added.
The minister also stressed that Estonia has been the one in the EU to take the lead on other issues related to Ukraine, and hopes that this will be the case again with the visa ban.
Earlier this month, Estonia implemented an entry ban on Russian citizens with Estonian-issued Schengen visas. It does not, however, have the right to restrict entry to Russian citizens with visas issued by other EU member states.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla