Private vehicles with Russian plates banned from entering EU

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Estonian-Russian border checkpoint in Narva.
Estonian-Russian border checkpoint in Narva. Source: ERR

Under guidelines issued by the European Commission on Friday, member states should not allow cars with Russian license plates to enter the EU. This ban applies not just to private vehicles, but also to company transport operations. Enforcement of these sanctions is mandatory for member states.

On September 8, the European Commission published new sanctions enforcement guidelines, according to which members of the trade bloc may not permit private individuals' vehicles with Russian plates into the EU, Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat writes (link in Finnish).

These aren't new sanctions on Russia, however, as private vehicles are already subject to an import ban in the EU; the Commission just provided new guidelines regarding how to interpret that ban.

A Commission representative likewise confirmed Monday that as the sanctions are part of EU law, then member states are obligated to enforce them.

Private vehicles, commercial transport both banned

The guidelines published Friday (link to PDF) states that it doesn't matter whether the use of a vehicle is private or commercial; in both cases it is subject to sanctions on vehicles originating in Russia.

The guidelines likewise state that this ban applies to vehicles with Russian plates and which are registered in Russia, as they most likely originate in Russia. The duration of their possible stay in the EU is likewise irrelevant to enforcing this sanction.

No additional transitional period is foreseen for this ban either, the guidelines explain.

Luxury items sanctioned as well

EU sanctions likewise prohibit the import of gold and luxury goods from Russia. This ban doesn't extend to Russian tourists' personal gold jewelry or luxury clothing items, so long as customs officials determine that they are owned by those individuals and not intended for sale.

Russian travel to Finland already very limited

Currently, Russian citizens can only travel to Finland if they are the family members of either a Finnish citizen or permanent resident of Finland. Foreign nationals with long-term residency permits and Finnish citizens themselves are likewise permitted to travel from Russia to Finland, Finnish public broadcaster Yle explained Monday (link in Finnish).

The Finnish Border Guard cited ten exceptions to its entry restrictions. In addition to the aforementioned categories, foreigners may also enter Finland either on a work visa or if they work in transport or the logistics sector, on business trips, student trips as well as to receive Finnish medical care.

Exceptions likewise apply to individuals who own property or an apartment in Finland, as well as to diplomatic representation staff. Exceptions may also be granted under special circumstances as well.

Peskov: Russia won't impose similar entry ban

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia has no intention of imposing the same restrictions on the EU as the latter has imposed on Russia.

According to Peskov, the EU's decision is extraordinary from a common sense point of view, and Russia will not stoop to such a level, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

The EU issued its additional sanctions guidelines after several incidents in Germany where Russians there attempted to import Russian-registered vehicles to Germany. German customs officials confiscated the vehicles on the grounds of sanctions adopted by the EU.

Läänemets: Entry ban for cars with Russian plates should be laid down by all border states

Estonia's Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) described the new guidelines on sanctions execution as sensible but said that compliance could take time. Cars with Russian plates will be able to cross the border until then.

"They are crossing the border now, and I believe the Commission's interpretation is very sensible and the sanctions should be executed as such. But the minor details involved are another matter. It would be sensible for states bordering Russia to do it together. That is when it would have a real effect and keep such cars from coming here," Läänemets said.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla, Marcus Turovski

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