Since president Zelensky asked western countries to completely ban Russian citizens, a discussion has been started. The eastern Members of the European Union have joined his call and have individually stopped issuing tourist visas for Russian citizens.
Although Finland is the only neighbouring country that still accepts tourist visas for Russians, the Finnish government decided yesterday to reduce the number of visas granted to Russian citizens by 90%, Yle magazine reported.
Currently, there are about 1,000 visas accepted daily, but starting in September, these will be reduced to only 100. The Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is preparing a plan under which, for the limited number of visas, priority will be given those applying for work, study or for family reasons.
Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto said the Foreign Affairs Ministry will work closely with the Ministry of the Interior to discuss the possibilities of a national humanitarian visa. This will be created to make it easier for journalists, dissidents or activists to more easily escape to Finland.
Haavisto said Finland will work with the three Baltic EU Members for a common approach on Russian visas. He will also raise the issue at the August meeting of EU foreign ministers, so the entire bloc can decide on a joint stance. Moreover, Finland wants to suspend the EU visa facilitation agreement with Russia, to raise the cost of a tourist visa from €35, under the agreement, to €80, when the agreement is suspended.
While Finland, Estonia and Latvia are stopping the visas, Greece Italy and Spain are issuing the largest number of visas for Russians, Haavisto said. However, since there is a flight ban to and from Russia, those who want to travel pass through Finland. According to Schengen rules, travellers can enter any country with a visa issued by any of the members, so most Russians drive to Helsinki airport to then board a flight to their final holiday destination.