Ratas: Russian tourist visa ban, MEP's questions on restriction, both valid
Center Party chair and Riigikogu Speaker Jüri Ratas says he finds the joint Baltic States-Polish barring of entry to citizens of the Russian Federation who hold a Schengen Area tourist visa to be justified.
Ratas told ERR that: "Naturally, such a restriction would be most effective … if imposed at EU-level. If such an agreement is not found, then surely this restriction is also good for our region."
Ratas said that his party's sole MEP, Yana Toom, had the right to check the legal basis upon which the ban, coming into effect September 19, was made.
"She is asking for the legal basis. If an MEP wants to ask this, they certainly have the right. The Nordic countries have also referred to the same legal aspect," Ratas went on.
While Isamaa leader Helir Valdor-Seeder had effectively called for Toom's expulsion from teh Center Party over her attempts to establish the legality of the travel ban, portal Delfi reports (link in Estonian)
Ratas said this outcome would not emerge.
He said: "I see that some political parties have started to demand the expulsion of Yana Toom, no, Yana Toom is a member of the Center Party and will remain so."
Ratas' parthian shot on the episode was: "However, I actually also understand the strong language from Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder regarding Yana Toom. It will help him to retrieve voters back from EKRE to Isamaa, with its low rating."
The Isamaa chair last year expelled several party members who had questioned his leadership, many of whom formed the kernel of the new Parempoolsed political party.
The ban to be put in place in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, which all share borders with the Russian Federation (via the Kaliningrad exclave in the case of Lithuania and Poland) applies to holders of tourist visas to the Schengen Area, regardless of who issued the visa. At present, Estonia denies access to Russian citizens holding Schengen tourist visas solely if the visa was issued by Estonia itself.
The rationale provided for the ban has primarily been that ordinary Russian citizens should not be able to travel to the EU for pleasure, at a time when their country is prosecuting a brutal war in Ukraine.
Yana Toom said Friday that the four countries are violating the Schengen Borders Code in imposing the ban.
This article was updated to include comments from Jüri Ratas on calls to expel Toom from Center.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte