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EU member countries suspend deal making it easier for Russians to issue visas
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EU member countries suspend deal making it easier for Russians to issue visas

The foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) decided on Wednesday August 31 to suspend the agreement on the relaxation of the visa regime with Russia. However, they did not decide on a broader visa ban, as some member states were asking for.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ministers meeting in Prague recognized that relations with Moscow “could not remain unchanged” and that the agreement, concluded in 2007, was to be “totally suspended”.

After the informal meeting, held at the Prague Congress Centre, Borrell also said the suspension would make obtaining visas for Russian nationals ” more difficult “ and ” longer “. “This will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by EU member states”he added.

Making a concession to eastern EU members who had called for tougher measures, he said countries bordering Russia “may take measures at national level to restrict entry into the European Union”.

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“A necessary first step”

The head of European diplomacy, however, specified that these measures should be in accordance with the rules of the Schengen area, stressing that it was important that members of Russian civil society could continue to travel to the European Union.

Prior to the meeting, Poland and the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) had said they were considering banning Russian travelers if the EU as a whole did not. In a joint statement, the four countries said the suspension of the agreement was “a necessary first step”adding:

“But we must drastically limit the number of visas issued, especially tourist visas, in order to reduce the flow of Russian citizens into the European Union and the Schengen area. »

They stressed that this measure should have exceptions “for dissidents as well as for other humanitarian cases”. “Until such measures are put in place at EU level, we (…) consider introducing temporary visa bans or border crossing restrictions at national level for Russian citizens holding EU visas”can we read in the statement written in English.

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