Baltic states reach agreement on limiting entry to Russian tourists

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The Narva border crossing in July 2022.
The Narva border crossing in July 2022. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have reached an agreement in principle on how to start restricting the entry of Russian tourists with Schengen visas issued by other EU member states, ministers announced on Wednesday. The rules will now be finalized and implemented individually at the national level.

"There is full transparency. The decisions are national, and each and every country makes that decision based on political, security and legal considerations. So from that point of view, we do believe that at this point the public security, and national security argument, as well as the political argument is relevant in our countries. We will continue close coordination, but each and every country will make a decision based on their own considerations," Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevičs said at a press conference of Nordic-Baltic ministers in Kaunas, Lithuania.

"We have reached an agreement in principle and as we speak, the last nuances are being agreed," he said, adding an official announcement was not made as the coordination is not yet finalized.

Exceptions will be made for truck drivers, diplomats and Russian citizens wishing to enter for family or humanitarian reasons, Rinkevičs said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) confirmed the news to ERR's radio show "Uudis+" on Wednesday afternoon.

The restrictions will be implemented individually by all three countries at the same time and are expected to be introduced in the second half of September, he said. Officials from the foreign and interior ministries of all three countries are coordinating with each other about the details and procedures.

"We also informed the Nordic countries of this, that there is a common understanding between the foreign ministers of the Baltic states [and] that in the coming days proposals will be presented to governments which will provide for the closure of the external border to Russian citizens entering with their tourist visas," Reinsalu told "Uudis+".

He said the decision will be agreed upon by the Estonian government at the session on Thursday (September 8).

Baltic-Nordic ministers at the NB8 press conference in Kaunas on September 7, 2022. Source: J. Azanovo / URM foto

"It is important to stress that all these decisions we are taking in the coming days and weeks are national measures and, of course, they will take place in full coordination with the countries. But they are not formally based on any international agreement or agreements between the countries," Reinsalu said at the press conference.

He said the countries had coordinated exceptions as much as possible so it will not be possible to create loopholes.

Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said Finland is also waiting for the European Commission's decision before it makes a decision. The country has already implemented some entry limits on Russian citizens.

Finland has previously said it is keen to apply the same measures, and a source told ERR it is thought the country may implement the restrictions at a later date, after the Baltic states.

The Baltics and several other EU countries have already stopped issuing new Schengen visas to Russian citizens and were hoping for a pan-European ban. As this has not happened, the countries decided to introduce their own rules.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland have all seen a surge in Russian citizens crossing their land borders since the summer after Russia lifted coronavirus travel restrictions.

Today's press conference can be watched below.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add additional comments from Urmas Reinsalu.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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