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Poland and Baltics to impose entry ban on Russian tourists

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Warsaw, Poland – Poland and the Baltic states agreed this week on “a common regional approach” to ban the entry of most Russian nationals on their territory by the end of the month, their governments announced.

Travel to the EU “a privilege, not a right”

“It is unacceptable that, while people in Ukraine are being tortured and murdered, citizens from the aggressor state [Russia] can travel freely within the EU,” the Polish government said in a joint statement with the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, citing “a serious threat to our public security and to the overall shared Schengen area.”

“Travel to the European Union is a privilege, not a human right,” the communique stresses, adding that “this is not an outright ban and commonly agreed legitimate exceptions will remain in force”, including for dissidents, humanitarian cases, family members, holders of residence permits and a handful of other circumstances.

The new restrictions should come into force in all four countries separately by September 19 and are mostly aimed at Russian citizens holding Schengen tourist visas, a document which allowed them to travel freely across most of the EU.

Lack of EU consensus

The issue of an EU ban against Russian tourists has been hotly debated for weeks, but has failed to win the unanimous approval of member states, including due to the opposition of Germany and France.

Meeting in Prague last month, EU foreign ministers agreed to suspend a 2007 visa facilitation deal with Russia, a move Baltics and Poland deem a necessary “first step” but insufficient.

The Baltics and Poland, all of which share a land border with Russia, have been the most vocal advocates for strict entry restrictions in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although air travel between Russia and the EU has been suspended since February, Russians are still able to travel by land to neighbouring countries, and from there take flight connections within the EU.

“We want, together with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, to significantly limit the entry of Russian citizens whose goal is tourism,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said, adding that they still hoped an EU-wide agreement could be reached.

Finland may also join the four countries in introducing a partial ban on Russian arrivals. Several countries, including the Czech Republic and the Baltics, have already stopped issuing new visas to Russian nationals.