Finland wants to limit the number of tourist visas granted to Russian citizens

Forced by the closure of airspace, more and more Russian citizens are traveling to Finland in order to transit to other European countries. But Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto wants to put a stop to it. He presented a plan to limit tourist visas issued to these nationals on Thursday August 4. “Many saw this as a circumvention of the sanctions regime”comments the member of the government.

Finland is seeking NATO membership and political and popular support for the Atlantic alliance skyrocketed after Moscow invaded Ukraine. But the Nordic country remains to this day the only EU member country and neighbor of Russia without restrictions on tourist visas for Russian citizens.

The Finnish conservative party had already proposed to stop granting new tourist visas to Russians. “The situation is unbearable”believes Jukka Kopra, a member of the National Coalition party interviewed by AFP. “Ukrainians are being killed, including civilians, women and children, and at the same time Russians have been vacationing in the EU.” Minister Pekka Haavisto responded by referring instead to “alternatives” to complete blockage. The Schengen regime and Finnish law, in fact, do not allow a total ban on visas based on nationality.

Helsinki, on the other hand, may reduce the number of visas issued depending on the category, including tourist visas, noted Pekka Haavisto. The ministry therefore presented a proposal to the government which could be up to Finland to “give preference” to groups such as family members and students, while applying for tourist visas. If the government gives the green light, a decision could be made by the end of the month.

With the lifting or easing of restrictions due to Covid-19, the number of Russian tourists passing through Finland has steadily increased, from 125,000 in June to more than 185,000 in July. In July alone, more than 10,000 tourist visas were issued to Russians, according to Finnish media. On the Russian side, the car companies of Saint Petersburg say they are running at full speed with Helsinki, especially since the train depending on the two cities has been interrupted because of the sanctions.

Finnish media reporter (in Finnish) that signs denouncing the war in Ukraine were temporarily planted for the attention of these tourists who went to the border post of Niirala. The perpetrator(s) of this operation have not been identified.

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