Ministers of EU member states agreed last week to suspend the application of the 2007 agreement with Russia on the simplification of the visa regime. Although a total travel ban has not been announced, Brussels has been asked to draw up new rules.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson presented the proposed new regime on Tuesday, and it is expected to be approved by the bloc’s members in the coming days.
Russians applying for visas from the Schengen area – the 22 EU members and Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – will now pay a fee of 85 instead of 35 euros.
The standard processing time for a visa application will be extended from 10 to 15 days, and in some cases the examination will take up to 45 days. The rules for multiple entry visas will be tightened.
Visa applicants will also have to submit more documents – according to the full list of supporting documents – and will no longer be able to use the simplified list included in the Visa Facilitation Agreement.
The European Commission will also propose that EU countries not recognize Russian passports issued in the occupied regions of Ukraine, which Moscow is trying to annex.
“Russians should not be able to enter the European Union easily, and traveling to the EU as a tourist is not a human right,” Johansson said and promised stricter security checks.
“Russia continues to violate international law by carrying out illegal military actions, crimes against Ukrainians and undermining security and stability in Europe and around the world,” she said.
“Today’s proposal shows a strong and united EU response. We will soon issue additional guidelines to ensure stricter processing of visa applications and border crossing checks for Russian citizens, not forgetting Russian dissidents and representatives of civil society,” Y. Johansson noted.
Last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged that the EU’s decision would make life difficult for Russian travelers, saying: “Another ridiculous decision in an ongoing absurdity.”
Some EU countries with a border with Russia – Finland, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia – have already started to tighten checks at the borders and called for a complete ban on issuing visas to Russians.
However, France and Germany have argued that further contacts between private Russian citizens and democratic societies are beneficial, and EU ministers accepted the suspension of the visa facilitation agreement with Russia as a compromise.