EU Visa Restrictions for Russian Citizens

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Some European Union (EU) member states are increasingly demanding that visa restrictions for Russian citizens should be applied as a policy of EU. In this context, European Commission Spokesperson Anitta Hipper stated that EU member states should act in a coordinated manner on the restriction of visas for Russian tourists.[1] According to Hipper, Brussels wants to facilitate a coordinated response to Russia and to this end, it negotiates with member states at the political and technical level. Expressing that their main objective is to ensure that the measures taken are coordinated and to promote European principles, Hipper once again reminded that issuing visas in humanitarian situations should be protected throughout the EU.[2] She also said that the issue will be discussed at the EU Foreign Ministers Meeting will be held in Prague on 30-31 August 2022.[3]

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on August 9, 2022, called on Western countries to ban the entry of Russians. He stated that Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy”.[4] But Zelenskyy’s statement is to blame the war on the people of Russia. However, it is impossible for all the Russian people, whose population is 144 million, to support the state. However, Zelenski seems to be turning the needle in the wrong direction with his explanation.

On the other hand, the potential of Russian citizens to carry out propaganda or espionage activities in European countries is also considered. So that; on August 21, 2022, four Czechs, two Russians and a Ukrainian were arrested for alleged spying in Albania. These individuals were caught while taking pictures near an arms factory in Poliçan in Southern Albania.[5] It is possible that more such incidents will occur.

According to the European Commission, Russia is one of the largest source countries for Schengen visa applications. That’s why, Russians accounted for 24% of all Schengen visa applications before the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. In addition, while the Schengen visa issuance process in 2019 took only three working days; this period has lasted two weeks or more recently.[6]

While active discussions continue the need to ban tourist visas for Russian citizens; with this ban, the EU hopes to increase the pressure on Moscow and put an end to Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2022. The data, on the other hand, indicate that such a ban would be a significant loss for the Russian people. While the EU probably aims to prevent Russian citizens from operating in the Schengen Area in favor of the Moscow administration; on the other hand, it wants a pressure from the public to the political elites in Russia.

As part of the seventh sanctions package adopted by the Council of Europe in July 2022, a draft resolution on the ban has been submitted for discussion. Already shortly after the start of the war, that is, on February 26, 2022, the EU suspended the facilitated visa regime with Russia. However, during this period, the European Commission refused to completely ban Schengen tourist visas for Russians as it was against EU norms.[7] Therefore, the adoption of such a ban at the meeting to be held in August 2022 will be contrary to EU norms and contradict the previous statements of the European Commission.

Various states, including the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Denmark, have restricted or stopped the processing of certain types of entry documents for Russians following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Latvia, Lithuania, and the Czechia have called for the ban on issuing visas to tourists which comes from Russia, at EU level. While Finland announced that the visas issued for Russians would be reduced by 90%; Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have taken similar decisions. Already, Lithuania is one of the first countries to restrict issuing visas to Russian citizens.[8] The fact that they are border neighbors to Russia also has an effect on the decisions of these states.[9] In other words, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czechia, Denmark, Norway and Poland, which are among the Schengen Area countries, are the countries that support the ban on Russian tourists.[10] On the other hand, Germany does not support such a practice, stating that most of the tourists and immigrants fled the country because they did not support the current regime in Russia.[11]

Such a restriction is not unusual, except for the temporary travel bans imposed during the intense period of the Covid-19 outbreak. Approval of the ban, although unlikely, could be a move that will push Europe further into the corner. Currently, “maintenance” works on the Nord Stream-1 Pipeline increase the expectation that a “cold winter” will be experienced throughout the region. In this case, Russia’s response to the visa ban will be through energy issue.

The ban, of course, may lead to social unrest in Russia as well, and even to an increase in illegal entry into Europe. It can be predicted that the Russians, who cannot travel through most of the countries in the West, will try to go abroad through neighboring countries such as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and Georgia. This may lead to an increase in illegal activities and adversely affect the security dynamics in the region.

In conclusion, the EU’s approval of the visa ban is not positive; can create a negative environment. Although the visa means a diplomatic relationship and a contract, the ban in question targets the Russian people rather than the Moscow administration. This, in turn, may increase anti-Europeanism in Russian society. Moreover, such a ban could have the effect of confirming Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric based on the European racism argument. So not the one who ended the war; prolonging results may occur. In addition to all these, it is possible that the tension between the Russians living in Europe and the peoples of the countries they live in may increase. Therefore, it can be said that the possible ban decision is not rational for the union. Moreover, it can be argued that the ban would contradict the EU’s image in the international arena.

[1] “EU to Discuss Visa Restrictions for EU Citizens at End of August”,,, (Date of Accession: 21.08.2022).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Zelensky Calls on West to ban all Russian Travelers”, Washington Post,, (Date of Accession: 21.08.2022).

[5] “Four Czechs, Two Russians, Ukrainian Arrested for Alleged Espionage in Albania”, Euronews,, (Date of Accession: 21.08.2022).

[6] “EU Looks to Russian Tourist Visa Ban as Means to Help End Ukraine War”, Anadolu Agency,, (Date of Accession: 22.08.2022).

[7] Ibid.

[8] “These EU&Schengen Countries Support an Entry Ban on Russian Tourists So Far”, Schengen Visa Info,, (Date of Accession: 22.08.2022).

[9] “Russians Scramble for Visas as EU Mulls Travel Restrictions”, The Moscow Times,, (Date of Accession: 21.08.2022).

[10] “These EU&Schengen…”, a.g.m.

[11] “European countries introduce bans on the movement of Russians”, Visit Ukraine,, (Date of Accession: 23.08.2022).

Cemre Çağla ATAMER
2017 yılında Aydın Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olan ve 2020 yılında aynı üniversitenin Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler yüksek lisans programından “Latin Amerika’da Entegrasyon Çabaları: AB ile Karşılaştırmalı Bir Analiz” teziyle uzmanlığını alan Cemre Çağla Atamer, 2021 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Latin Amerika Çalışmaları Anabilim Dalı’nda ikinci yüksek lisans programına başlamıştır. Halihazırda yüksek lisans eğitimine devam eden Atamer, iyi derecede İngilizce ve başlangıç seviyesinde İspanyolca bilmektedir.