Total ban on Russian tourists debated in Europe

Total ban on Russian tourists debated in Europe
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While some Baltic countries are defending a total ban on Russian tourists, some, like Germany, cautions against an outright ban.

A debate over a possible ban on Russian tourists is heating up across Europe while some Baltic countries signal preparations to stop Russian tourists from entering their countries if a wider ban is not enacted by the European Union, and as EU foreign ministers is about to convene in an informal meeting in the Czech Republic to discuss the visa issue concerning Russian tourists.

With air travel between the EU and Russia suspended after the latter's invasion of Ukraine, many Russian tourists have been using Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Finland as a transit route to other EU destinations.

Kaja Kallas, prime minister of Estonia, said last week that 30 per cent of Russians traveling to the EU do so via the Baltic state.

Denmark is also in favor of a total ban, and Germany's Christian democratic alliance CDU/CSU also supports the ban.

The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, who will chair the Prague talks, said he opposes a ban on all Russian visas, saying the bloc needs to “be more selective”.

The heating debate has begun to be covered intensively by media outlets, as Swissinfo used the headline "Tourist visa ban for Russians divides Europe" on Thursday, and the Financial Times published a view on the issue on Sunday.

The FT voiced opposition to a total ban, saying, "It bolsters the false Kremlin narrative that sanctions are not really about Ukraine but are a western plot to bring down Russia and its people. Even moderate Russians might turn against the EU."

As the expression of a major objection by a European state to a total ban, German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz was cited saying, “This is not the war of the Russian people, it is Putin’s war.”

The article objected to the ban also on grounds that many opponents of the Putin administration were trying to move out of Russia and take refuge abroad.

"Several hundred thousand Russians are estimated to have left their country since the war started, in unease or quiet protest over what is happening," the article said.

"Many are young and well-qualified, constituting a brain drain that will amplify the economic hit from sanctions. Some will become part of a growing liberal-minded diaspora that may one day return to try to build a better, post-Putin Russia. Some departed to émigré hotspots such as Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and Dubai, but many set out for the EU, initially on tourist visas, to look for jobs."