It is being reported that the EU foreign ministers are expected to reach a consensus today on restrictions on visas for Russian travellers within the Schengen area, supposedly as a rebuke for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ministers are expected in most reports to make it more difficult for Russians travelling to the Schengen area to obtain visas, but to stop short of an outright visa ban, which some of the more extreme voices from Eastern and Central European and Baltic Member States have been demanding. Meanwhile, certain Irish MEPs have opportunistically sought publicity by joining the extremist chorus, calling for the Irish government to support an outright ban on visas for Russians.
Either decision - to restrict or ban Russian visas - is a mistake. As the Financial Times makes clear in a Sunday editorial, visa bans would target civilians and affect civilians, not Russian officials.
Though sanctions aimed at degrading Vladimir Putin’s ability to wage his war have inevitably affected ordinary Russian people, they have not targeted them directly. Even bans on Russian planes entering EU airspace and on supplying parts for its aircraft aimed to weaken its economy, not keep Russians out. A visa ban is different, because it specifically targets civilians... Even moderate Russians might turn against the EU.It is unclear how visa restrictions are supposed to alter Russian government policy. The only arguments that are being made for doing this appeal to the idea that Russian civilians, having elected their government, bear collective responsibility for the invasion of Ukraine, and that they must therefore suffer for it. The Financial Times quotes an unnamed EU official that "[i]t is inappropriate for Russian tourists to stroll in our cities, on our marinas. We have to send a signal to the Russian population that this war is not OK, it is not acceptable."
I was honoured today to stand shoulder to shoulder with exiled Catalan leaders and colleagues on the steps of the European Parliament, to present this letter signed by 250 parliamentarians demanding amnesty for Catalan prisoners and exiles. Spain must heed the call, end its repression, honour its democratic obligations and enter dialogue. #CatalanAmnesty https://www.eucatplatform.eu/letter-on-amnesty/Learn more
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