The Baltic States — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — reached an agreement on restricting entry for Russian tourists with Schengen visas.
The decision was announced by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics at a joint meeting of the ministers of the three countries, as well as representatives of the Nordic Foreign Ministries, held the day before, on September 7, in Lithuanian Kaunas.
During a press conference following the meeting, Minister Rinkevich said the number of Russian travelers crossing EU borders on Schengen visas had risen sharply in recent months, saying the issue had now become a “public safety issue.”
“This is also a matter of moral and political nature, and I think that at the moment the Baltic countries have reached an agreement in principle — it remains to finalize the details — on the policy of restricting entry through the Russian-Latvian, Belarusian-Latvian, Lithuanian-Russian, Lithuanian-Belarusian, as well as the Estonian-Russian border of Russian citizens, — he said.
He went on to say that although the decision would be taken jointly and the measures would be the same for each Baltic country, the restrictions would be introduced through national procedures.
“We will present the agreed documents to our governments, and I think that the issue of restrictions will be resolved in the next ten days.” Thus, an agreement in principle has been reached, and only a few details remain to be agreed.
It follows from the report that all three countries have agreed to ban Schengen visa holders from Russia from entering, except for humanitarian reasons, family reasons, truck drivers and diplomats.
For more than a month, the Baltic states have been pushing for the EU to impose a visa ban on Russian tourists, insisting that Russian tourists should not be allowed to roam all over Europe fighting».
The issue was discussed by EU foreign ministers at an informal meeting in Prague on August 31, but officials only agreed to cancel the 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia, which would make it harder for Russian citizens to obtain Schengen visas. Today, the European Commission also made a formal proposal to suspend this agreement.
The suspension of the agreement means that Russian citizens will need to present more documents when applying for a visa, they will have to pay a fee of 80 euros instead of 35, as it has been so far, as well as to wait for a maximum of 45 days for a visa, and not from ten to 15 days, as it is now.
Immediately after the meeting on August 31, the Baltic countries were warned that they would not deviate from his idea to ban Russian tourists from traveling to Europe.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that Poland is also part of an initiative to ban Russians from entering the EU.