EU proposes watered down version of ban on issue of visas to Russian citizens

The European Union is proposing to make it more expensive and harder for Russian citizens to get visas. Russians wanting to enter the EU will now face a lengthier application process and see fees rise.

This should continue as long as Moscow wages its war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU Commission said.

More than a million Russians have travelled to EU countries since the invasion of Ukraine in February.

Margaritis Schinas, an EU Commission vice-president, said Russia had "completely undermined" the trust on which the existing EU-Russia visa agreement was based.

Under that agreement, Russians had for 15 years enjoyed a streamlined process for getting EU visas. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said that the visa agreement should be suspended as there "can be no business as usual" with Russia.

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Tuesday's announcement is being seen as a typical "Brussels cop-out". Whilst some countries such as France and Germany opposed a blanket ban, other EU countries bordering Russia have already begun to tighten border controls.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last week admitted that the EU decision would make life more difficult for Russian travellers, calling the proposal "another ridiculous decision in a series of ongoing absurdities".

Under the proposals, Russian citizens will face:

  • A higher visa fee: The visa fee will increase from €35 to €80 for all applicants.
  • Increased processing time: The standard deadline for consulates to take a decision on visa applications will increase from 10 to 15 days. This period may be extended up to a maximum of 45 days in individual cases, when further scrutiny of the application is needed.
  • More restrictive rules on multiple-entry visas: Applicants will no longer have easy access to visas valid for multiple entries to the Schengen area.
  • A longer list of supporting documents: Applicants will have to submit the full list of documentary evidence when applying for a visa. They will no longer benefit from the simplified list included in the Visa Facilitation Agreement.

Separately, the EU Commission is proposing that the member states refuse to recognise Russian passports issued in occupied Ukraine.

"Russians should not have easy access to the European Union and travelling to the EU as a tourist is not a human right," said EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.

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