Explaining carefully to western European countries the importance of imposing a Russian tourist visa ban is all the more critical given the coming autumn and winter may lead to widening social dissatisfaction in those counties, if and when the Ukraine conflict is blamed by politicians and other for soaring energy prices and general inflation, one of Estonia's seven MEPs, Urmas Paet (Reform), says.
Appearing on ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" Thursday, Paet said: "It's clear that emotions are different in far-off countries, and new developments are coming, such as an increase in the cost of living. If someone over there then puts the reason for this as being the ongoing war, people will then say stop this war, I don't want to pay more-"
Paet forecast that the coming autumn would bring great social tensions in larger European countries such as France, which, he said, could affect the politics in those countries as well.
"If the increase in the cost of living is labeled as the fault of sanctions on Russia, then there will be more and more parts of society that are discontent about that," Paet said.
A general tourist visa ban on Russian citizens such as that being imposed by Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland later this month, is necessary because such citizens either actively or passively back the slaughter of civilians and defenders in Ukraine, in the current war, Paet went on.
Flight bans have been in place between Russia and the EU for months, Paet added, meaning most Russian citizens on tourist visas will travel to Europe by car, and through the neighboring states of Latvia, Estonia and Finland.
He said: "Statistics from the last few months have been compiled here, which show that there have been nearly a million border crossings into these three countries. If you look at how many Russians have valid tourist visas, this is still a very big burden for small countries, not to mention the security risks it brings."
Paet noted that the culprits of the March 2018 Salisbury Novichok poisoning incident had traveled to the UK on a tourist visa also.
At the same time, Paet noted, EU member states are moving at different paces on this – even Finland is delaying somewhat – while economic considerations are arising, for instance in Greece or Spain, who issue "many" tourist visas to Russians, as well as the argument that the ordinary citizen is not responsible for the misdeeds of the leadership.
This means that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had to act in order to stem the potential flood of people, one which it could not process, the MEP went on.
Paet also rejected an argument sometimes heard at the European Parliament to the effect that exposure to the EU and EU values would somehow have a positive effect on the ordinary Russian tourist's worldview, the implication being that this would then alter their view of their own country's leadership and policies, perhaps followed by evangelization of this new world-view, once back home.
There was no evidence from the past 30 years of this happening, Paet said. "This has not happened even after years of tourism. Russia still starts one war after another, most recently in Ukraine. They also do not understand the difference between tourist visas and visas of other types."
Paet also noted that the demographic which travels on a Schengen Area tourist visa or similar tends to be from the more well-heeled component of Russian society, likely to be loyal to the regime, or at least not opposed to it, and not suffering the effects of the conflict in the way the families of those soldiers being sent from poorer or more outlying areas of the Russian Federation, have been.
This demographic thus needs to feel negative effects from the war also, if there is any hope of dissatisfaction with the conflict arising in Russian society.
Russian citizens holding Schengen tourist visas are to be barred from entering Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland from September 19, the Estonian government said on Thursday. Russian citizens with Schengen tourist visas issued in Estonia were already banned entry from last month, but this did not apply to the holder of a Schengen visa issued by any other member state.
Editor: Andrew Whyte