Finland: Significantly fewer tourist visas for Russians

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Status: 08/16/2022 4:49 p.m

In the future, Russian tourists will find it more difficult to travel to Finland and thus to the EU. The government in Helsinki wants to issue significantly fewer visas. In the EU, a complete travel ban is not yet off the table.

Finland wants to let significantly fewer Russian tourists into the country in the future. From September onwards, only ten percent of the current number of tourist visas will be issued, the Finnish government said. The Finnish broadcaster YLE reported that there are currently around 1,000 visas for Russians every day.

The reason for the new line is the growing dissatisfaction in the country that Ukrainian refugees are being helped and at the same time more and more Russians are vacationing in Finland. In polls, a majority of people voted in favor of no longer issuing tourist visas to Russian travelers because of the Russian attack on Ukraine. With a tourist visa, holidaymakers can also travel freely to the rest of the EU countries.

Visa restrictions through the back door

However, it would not be legally possible to no longer issue visas to Russian vacationers, said Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. That’s why the country wants to try a trick: The opening times during which tourist visas can be applied for should be shortened.

“At the same time, we want to make it easier for people to come to Finland to work, study or visit relatives,” said Haavisto. “So there should be solutions for those who have a reason to come to Finland, but the usual tourist visa should be harder to get.”

EU to discuss issue

According to Haavisto, Finland is also hoping for an end to the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia. This would increase the cost of a tourist visa from 35 to 80 euros. In addition, Finland is pushing for a uniform European solution and wants to address the issue at the EU summit in the Czech Republic at the end of the month. Prague wants to propose a travel ban for Russian citizens to the remaining EU countries.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke out against a travel ban for Russians during a state visit to Norway on Monday. “This is Putin’s war, not the Russians’ war,” he said. One should not make it even more difficult for members of the opposition to leave Russia.

Estonia: Visa ban “Achilles heel” of Moscow

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas pointed out last week that the EU had banned flights to and from Russia – so the only way for Russian travelers to the EU is via Finland, Estonia and Latvia. “So it’s not really fair that all other Schengen countries issue these visas, but the three of us actually bear the burden,” said Kallas.

She thinks a visa ban is very effective: “You have to understand that only ten percent of the Russian population travels abroad, and it’s exactly these people, who mainly come from Moscow and St. Petersburg, whose opinion counts. They show that very well painful reactions from Russia to this proposal,” Kallas said, referring to a tweet by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who attacked her for calling for a visa ban. “It shows that this is the Achilles’ heel. It’s something they’re really scared of, so it’s effective.”

Finland and Estonia: Significant visa restrictions for Russians

Sofie Donges, ARD Stockholm, 16.8.2022 8:22 p.m