The EU Commission has moved from words to deeds, officially proposing to completely suspend the Visa Facilitation Agreement with Russia, which applies to all Russian citizens. Europe intends to do this within the framework of the sanctions imposed against the Russian Federation in connection with the start of a special operation in Ukraine. The proposal was submitted last Tuesday, 6 September, and it is now up to the Council to consider and adopt the proposal.
Recall that the practical steps of the European Commissioners followed the partial suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement with Russia, which has been in force since February 25, 2022. Once the suspension is complete, the Russian authorities will be notified 48 hours before the change takes effect, Schengenvisainfo said. Instead, the EU countries will apply the general rules of the Visa Code to Russian tourists.
The EU Commission has said that Russia should not apply for visa facilitation because of the events in Ukraine. According to EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, the Russian side allegedly violated international law and the fundamental principles on which the Visa Facilitation Agreement was concluded.
“Today's proposal demonstrates a strong and united EU response. We will develop additional recommendations in the near future to ensure that Russian citizens are more closely monitored on visa applications and border crossings, without cutting ourselves off from Russian dissidents and civil society,” she said.
The suspension of the agreement, which was reached in 2007, means that Russian tourists will no longer enjoy the benefits of applying for a Schengen visa to Europe, such as lower visa fees and lighter requirements. From September 12, the following important changes will come into effect:
- the visa fee will increase from 35 to 80 euros for all applicants
- application processing time will increase from 10 to 15 days, up to a maximum 45 days in selected cases
- it will become more difficult to obtain a multiple-entry visa
- applicants will be required to provide more documents
Commenting on this step, Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Promotion of the European Way of Life, noted that while the special operation of the Russian Federation continues, the citizens of our country cannot enjoy the benefits of the visa facilitation agreement.
“EU visa policy is a sign of trust – trust that Russia completely undermined with its special operation… Once again, the EU demonstrates its unshakable unity in its response to this,” he was quoted as saying.
The proposal follows an agreement by EU foreign ministers during an informal meeting held on August 31 in Prague, where a complete ban on the entry of Russian tourists was also discussed, but such a decision was not made due to a split in the opinions of the EU member states. Instead, the ministers agreed to suspend the Visa Facilitation Agreement with Russia as a first step in this direction.
According to the EU Commission, as of September 1, 2022, there were approximately 963,000 Russians holding valid Schengen visas. The total number of visas issued to Russian tourists and registered in the Visa Information System was about 14 million, of which about 13 million are no longer valid. In January-June 2022, the EU recorded just over 1 million entries of Russian citizens through its maritime, air and land borders. The statistics included tourists who had a multiple-entry visa and could enter/leave the EU more than once on the same visa.
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