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Brussels sets out plans to restrict visas for Russian nationals

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The European Commission on Tuesday unveiled how it plans to suspend the bloc’s 2007 visa agreement with Moscow to limit the number of Russian travellers allowed in the bloc.

The proposed guidelines by Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson come less than a week after EU foreign ministers backed the motion at an informal meeting in Prague. 

“To be a tourist in the EU is not a fundamental right,” Johansson stressed. “At the moment, there is no basis for trust and for a privileged relationship with Russia.”

Under the Commission’s proposal, visa fees for Russian nationals would increase from €35 to €80 for all applicants while the processing time would be lengthened from 10 days currently to up to 45 days, in part to compensate for reduced consular staff as a result of Russian expulsions. 

The plan also makes it harder for Russians to get visas granting multiple entries into the Schengen zone and requires a longer list of documents to apply.

Russian passports issued in occupied areas would meanwhile not be recognised as valid documents.

Johansson added that guidelines will ensure journalists and Russians travelling for family reasons will be protected but emphasised that member states should be allowed to refuse visa applications for those who may pose a threat to internal security.

There are currently less than one million valid visas for Russian citizens, Johansson detailed, and the proposal would allow member states that issued them to “reexamine” them. 

The commissioner also announced she would visit the border between Finland and Russia to further discuss the visa issue and see the challenges border countries are facing first-hand.

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