Lithuania presses for EU hard line on Russian tourist visas

August 23, 2022 GMT

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania’s foreign minister said Tuesday that if the EU won’t agree on a visa ban for Russian tourists, he won’t rule out looking for a regional solution that could involve the Baltic states, Poland and possibly Finland.

Gabrielius Landsbergis said Tuesday he prefers “a European solution because it’s the most sustainable and legally correct.”

“If such a solution is not found, we do not rule out looking for a regional solution,” Landsbergis said. He didn’t elaborate on what that might be.

The five countries he spoke about, which all are EU members, want the bloc as a whole to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens. They have already either stopped issuing such visas or put limitations on them, saying Russians should not be able to take vacations in Europe while Moscow wages war in Ukraine.

In Warsaw, Radoslaw Fogiel, a spokesman for Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party, said Tuesday they want the “toughest possible limitations in granting visas to Russians, on a European level.”

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However, there is no unanimity within the 27-member bloc and some EU leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have dismissed the idea as counterproductive. The EU itself has said that a full tourist ban doesn’t respect the rules and that each case should be examined individually.

The visa issue will be raised at an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Aug. 31.

The EU banned air travel from Russia after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine. But Russians can still travel by land to neighboring EU countries and apparently are then taking flights to other European destinations.

Visas issued in Europe’s travel zone, known as the Schengen area, can be used in the zone’s 26 countries — including 22 EU nations plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Normally, people and goods move freely between these countries without border checks.

Lithuania, along with the other Baltic countries Latvia and Estonia, have taken a hard-line stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Full coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine