Lithuania, Denmark Back EU-Wide Block On Russian Tourist Visas

Vilnius/Copenhagen: The Foreign Ministers of Lithuania and Denmark have called for a European Union (EU)-wide stance on banning tourist visas for Russians in the wake of the continued war in Ukraine.

Finland and Estonia have been pushing the plan but German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the European Commission are so far against the proposal, reports dpa news agency.

“Ideally, it should be a decision at the European level that would simply cancel the validity of these visas and everyone would stop issuing them,” Lithuania’s Gabrielius Landsbergis, whose country borders the Russian semi-exclave of Kaliningrad, said on Wednesday.

Lithuania has already largely suspended issuing visas and residence permits to Russians as a reaction to the invasion of Ukraine with fellow Baltic and EU states Estonia and Latvia having acted similarly.

Finland is also tightening visa rules.

But Landsbergis questioned the effectiveness of individual measures, saying Russian citizens will still be allowed to enter countries on visas issued by other EU nations.

“A Russian citizen today can get a visa at a German consulate in any Russian city where there is a consulate and travel via Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland to wherever he wants to go on vacation,” he said.

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, whose country receives very few Russian tourists compared to the likes of Finland, agrees with the need for a coordinated EU response, but will go it alone if needed.

“If it doesn’t work out with a joint solution, we will explore from the Danish side the possibility of introducing restrictions to reduce the number of Russian tourist visas,” he told the Danish Ritzau news agency.

“I find it deeply shameful that Russian tourists can sunbathe and live in splendour in southern Europe while Ukrainian cities are bombed beyond recognition.”

The Czech Republic, which holds the presidency of the EU and is also limiting Russian visas, plans to raise the issue at a meeting of the bloc’s Foreign Ministers at the end of this month.

Sweden is yet to decide on its stance while Norway, not in the EU, would support any joint action.

But Germany’s Scholz fears limiting visas will prevent refugees from fleeing Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime.

A swathe of economic and political sanctions have already been aimed at Russia and Putin following February’s invasion of Ukraine.

(IANS)