Visa ban for Russian tourists?

Seven states on the EU's eastern flank are calling on the other EU member states to suspend the issuing of Schengen visas to Russian tourists. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has made similar demands. The EU foreign ministers will meet on Tuesday to discuss the proposal. Europe's press is divided.

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Público (PT) /

Travel ban contradicts Europe's basic values

Público rejects the idea of a general ban on all Russian citizens entering the country:

“The idea of collectively punishing Russians could create more problems than opportunities. If Europe rightly presents itself in this conflict as the custodian of civil liberties, democracy, tolerance and respect for fundamental rights, then it makes sense to apply these values with a sense of proportion. It could be counterproductive to give the Russians the idea that they are guilty and must atone for this guilt by being imprisoned in their own country.”

Le Monde (FR) /

A new iron curtain

Banning visas for Russian tourists would be a big step backwards for the West and Russia, Russian journalist Zoya Svetova warns in a guest article in Le Monde:

“Western officials, not the Russian leadership, want to definitively resurrect the Soviet Union by rebuilding the Iron Curtain. Without even waiting for the Kremlin to do so. We who live in Russia, we who lived there during the Soviet era, will stand firm. But - and this is the main thing - this iron curtain and the strategy of getting rid of Russians and everything Russian will not achieve its goal, namely to end the special military operation in Ukraine. ”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Acknowledge collective responsibility

The visa ban is an important instrument in the conflict with Russia, La Libre Belgique insists:

“The current debate is about whether to recognise the collective responsibility of the Russian people, who for 22 years have been the passive accomplices of a regime that spreads fear and terror, starting with the devastating Chechen war. A second question, no less important, is the ability of Europeans to react to geopolitical upheavals. A decision on visas is only one of the tools at our disposal to treat Russia as the adversary it has chosen to become.”

Contributors (RO) /

Shock therapy for well-off

Political scientist Sorin Ioniță makes the case for only suspending category C visas for Russians, which allow visitors to stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days within a six-month period. He writes in Contributors' blog:

“That would solve a large part of the problem and we could leave it at that. There would be plenty of leeway to support Putin's opponents or help students and researchers stay in contact with the West. But it would be shock therapy for the comfortable circles in Moscow and St. Petersburg which have so far failed to realise that their country is waging a devastating war, because Putin has done everything to protect them from consequences and unpleasant news.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

A morally appropriate response

A travel ban for Russians is fully justified in view of the ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine, Jutarnji list puts in:

“This is not a measure that will topple Putin's regime, and it will certainly please Erdoğan, who expects even more Russians to come and spend their money in Turkish resorts. But this measure would show that Europe does not want blood money. This is not about dissidents, but about people who don't care what atrocities their country commits while they bathe carefree in Ibiza, Bled or Opatija. That is why it would be good to isolate Russia in this way.”

Diena (LV) /

Principles and numbers speak against a ban explains why there are also those in Europe who are against a visa ban:

“For some in so-called old Europe, ideological principles have long been more important than real threats (think of Europe's inability to expel radical Islamists from several countries), while for others their economic interests are key. Moreover, there's also the argument that the overwhelming majority of Russian citizens are indifferent to the availability or unavailability of Schengen visas. So a ban on visas would only affect the rather small proportion of Russians who are already oriented towards Europe and the West.”

Ilya Krasilshchik (RU) /

A simplistic reaction to voters' emotions

The well-known media manager Ilya Krasilshchik believes the discussion about visas is driven by populist motives. In a Facebook post he writes:

“Elections are approaching in Latvia and Estonia. The calls for harsh measures must be seen in this context. In Estonia, Latvia and Finland, real democracy prevails, politicians vie with each other for votes. This summer, voters are seeing dozens of relaxed Russians visiting their countries on the one hand, and images of bombed-out Ukraine on their TVs on the other. These two images don't go together - and no one cares to point out that those who arrive with visas are not the ones doing the bombing. ... It seems to me that when the flow of tourists dwindles in the autumn, the discussion will also disappear. ... And the further one is from Russia, the more relaxed the comments are.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Precisely the opposite is needed

Denying visas to Russians would deprive them of the perspectives they urgently need, The Spectator argues:

“Banning anyone with a Russian passport from easily travelling to Europe is as racist and wrong-headed as Donald Trump's moronic 2017 'Muslim travel ban'. ... It's wrong because it makes Putin right when he claims that the war is being fought by pathological Russophobes and is driven by hatred of all Russians. ... Allowing young Russians to travel and study freely in the EU and Britain would be a huge step towards undermining Putin's poisonous and gerontocratic stranglehold on his country and counter his attempt to pull Russia backwards towards a Soviet-themed future.”

Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

Après-skiing in the Alps is not a human right

Russians who can afford holidays abroad should be forced to realise that their country's war against Ukraine will not go unpunished, writes the Aargauer Zeitung:

“Sanctions always affect innocent people, that cannot be avoided. But a ban on tourism would only affect a small 'innocent' minority. Besides, shopping in Paris or après-skiing in the Alps is not a human right. Nonetheless, such a ban would send a strong signal: it would remind well-off Russians who can afford holidays in the West that the failed invasion has turned Russia into a pariah state and that a return to normality will only be conceivable after the withdrawal from Ukraine.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

A boost for the Kremlin's propaganda

Deutschlandfunk doesn't think such a ban makes sense:

“Where are Russians more likely to realise what their country is doing - in Russia or in the West? In the country where they continue to be bombarded with anti-Western propaganda, or in places where they encounter critical voices? ... Kremlin propaganda is trying to burn all the Russians' mental bridges to the West. 'The Germans, the English, the French don't like you; for them you are only second-class people; it's good if we seal ourselves off.' This has been the tone of Russian state TV for years. By banning tourist visas, the EU would only be giving this propaganda a valuable boost.”

Strana (UA) /

Zelensky's misguided about-face

The oppositional website takes a critical view of Zelensky's call for a travel ban for Russians:

“The supporters of Kremlin policy in Russia have greeted Zelensky's ideas with enthusiasm. They believe such moves will further consolidate Russian society's support for Putin and reduce anti-war sentiment. With schadenfreude they are eagerly awaiting the Russian opposition members who have actively supported Ukraine and Zelensky, and whom Zelensky now wants to send back to Russia. ... Previously, the Ukrainian president had called for the opposite of this: shortly after the Russian invasion began he said that Russians should leave their country so they don't pay taxes to the Kremlin.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Withdraw the privilege of travel to Europe

Hospodářské noviny welcomes the initiative:

“According to one of the latest surveys conducted in Russia, two-thirds of Russians support Putin's policies - including the invasion of Ukraine. Some may argue that the proposal put forward by Estonia and Finland means applying the principle of collective guilt. But only such a move can force the small part of Russian society which is interested in travelling and wants to enjoy the amenities and benefits of the functioning states of the European Union to reflect on the havoc their government is causing and the fact that it is committing war crimes. 'Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,' the Estonian prime minister wrote on Twitter. She is right.”

Postimees (EE) /

The EU must take concerted action

In view of the invasion tourist and pleasure trips for Russians should be restricted as much as possible, Postimees writes:

“Finland, like Estonia and Latvia, is considering whether to stop issuing tourist visas. However, it too understands that this will not solve the problem. As Prime Minister Kaja Kallas demanded on Twitter yesterday, the solution is for the European Union as a whole to stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. ... The Ukrainian president and the prime ministers of Finland and Estonia are on the right track. As long as the Russians want to wage war against Europe, they have no business coming here on holiday. Travel based on humanitarian grounds, such as in the case of persecuted journalists or dissidents, is another matter entirely.”

Sme (SK) /

Targeted bans rather than indiscriminate condemnation

It would be a mistake to prevent all Russian citizens from travelling, Sme argues:

“Germans, for example, still remember how German-speaking groups of holidaymakers were viewed in European health resorts long after the war had ended. They were scrutinised to determine whether they spoke too loudly, whether that said something about their character or their desire to oppress others. ... For the time being we stand by our opinion that 'Russian travellers' is too broad a category. Lists directed against specific people belonging to the 'regime' seem more appropriate. ... Others, even if they lack taste or a conscience, should not be denied the opportunity to travel.”