EU suspends Russian visa facilitation deal

Brussels, Sep 9 (EFE).- The European Union on Friday suspended an agreement with Moscow that made it easier for Russian citizens to obtain visas to travel to the bloc.

On Tuesday, the European Commission filed a proposal to fully suspend the EU’s visa facilitation agreement with Russia on the grounds that Moscow’s “destructive foreign policy and military aggression towards Ukraine” demonstrated the Kremlin’s “complete disregard to the international rules-based order.”

The suspension of the deal means that the general rules of the visa code will apply to Russian citizens, who will no longer enjoy privileged access to the bloc.

As of September 12, Russians looking to visit the bloc will face an increased visa application from 35 to 80 euros.

In addition, Russian citizens traveling to Europe may face greater scrutiny for short-term visa applications and increased waiting times for the visa application process, the Commission said in a statement.

“A visa facilitation agreement allows privileged access to the EU for citizens of trusted partners with whom we share common values. With its unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression, including its indiscriminate attacks against civilians, Russia has broken this trust and trampled on the fundamental values of our international community,” Czech interior minister Vít Rakušan, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement.

“Today’s decision is a direct consequence of Russia’s actions and further proof of our unwavering commitment to Ukraine and its people,” Rakušan added.

The visa agreement between the EU and Russia came into force on June 1, 2007, with the aim of facilitating short-term visas.

In February, following Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU partially suspended the pact and banned Russian diplomats, officials and businessmen from access to the visa facilitation system.

The total suspension affects all Russian citizens who wish to travel to the EU for a short stay.

“The Commission is expected to present additional guidelines to ensure this suspension does not negatively impact certain people traveling to the EU for essential purposes, such as journalists, dissidents and civil society representatives,” a Commission statement read.

Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Thursday agreed to introduce “temporary national measures against Russian citizens who hold EU visas.”

“These countries will limit the possibility of entry of Russian citizens for tourism, cultural, sports and business purposes into the Schengen zone,” the Polish government reported in a statement.

A joint statement from the four nations added that the move was not an outright ban.

“We fully uphold the need to continue to support opponents of the Putin regime and provide them with opportunities to leave Russia,” the statement added. EFE


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