EU to suspend visa agreement with Russia, Estonia says it's not enough
EU foreign ministers agreed Wednesday to suspend a visa facilitation agreement concluded between the EU and Russia in 2007. According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), however, this isn't enough for Estonia.
At a two-day informal meeting held in Prague this week, EU foreign ministers agreed on a "full suspension of the European Union-Russia visa facilitation agreement," Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, adding that this step would significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by EU member states, Reuters reported.
"Estonia's priority at the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers was to discuss ways of moving forward in a united and speedy way to stop financing Russia's war machine and introduce the eighth sanctions package, including an end to issuing tourist visas to Russian nationals," Reinsalu said after the meeting Wednesday according to a ministry press release.
He noted that he supported the ending of the EU's visa facilitation agreement with Russia, but stressed that this alone would not be enough.
"At the meeting, I called for increasing defense aid to Ukraine for the sake of European security, but also to restrict Russian citizens' opportunities to come and indifferently enjoy the freedoms offered by democratic Europe while innocent people are dying in Ukraine," the Estonian minister said. "It is our moral duty."
Reinsalu noted that there was a general consensus at this week's informal meeting that the European Commission would be instructed to launch an analysis on addressing the visas already issued to Russian citizens.
"Until we have reached an agreement on how to restrict the entry of Russian nationals to the EU, Estonia and other countries that share a border with Russia and Belarus will consider a national visa ban or restricting border crossings for Russian nationals with EU visas," he said.
The foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland also issued a joint statement regarding the substantial increase in Russian citizens entering the EU and Schengen area and the security threat this poses.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla