FINLAND on Tuesday asked the European Commission to issue a recommendation to all Schengen countries about visas granted to Russians.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Tuesday revealed that Finland is proposing that all Schengen countries, when denying entry to a Russian national, either invalidate or revoke the existing visa of or impose an entry ban on the individual.
The approach, it explained, would also enable other countries to deny entry to the individual on grounds of the revoked visa or entry ban, which is visible in the Schengen Information System. The same individual would therefore be unable to seek access to the border-free area by crossing another land border or using another flight route.
“We’re not proposing that all Russian visas be revoked,” Jussi Tanner, the director of consular services at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, clarified to Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday.
Information obtained by the newspaper suggests that the request stems from frustration with the approach taken by Estonia. Estonia is turning back Russians seeking entry with a tourist visa on grounds that they pose a security threat, but, because it neither invalidates the visa nor imposes an entry ban on such individuals, there is no record of the decision that would be visible to authorities in Finland.
The approach is convenient in that the individual denied entry is not able to appeal against the decision, unlike in the case of visa revocation, for example.
Helsingin Sanomat wrote that Finland is under the impression is based on a decision made by policy-makers rather than security officials to regard all Russian tourists as a security threat.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs refrained from commenting on whether the approach is acceptable under the Schengen Agreement.
“In the Schengen Area, you should principally act in accordance with the common rules,” Matti Pitkäniitty, the head of international co-operation at the Finnish Border Guard, commented to the newspaper.
The rules would already allow Finland to deny entry to a Russian national if it turns out that they have been denied entry by Poland, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. Finland is hoping that Poland and the Baltics, which closed their borders for Russian tourists on Monday, inform other Schengen countries of any decisions to deny entry to, revoke the visa of or impose an entry ban on a traveller.
Finland on Monday became the only land route for Russian tourists to the EU.
The country proposed earlier this week that tourist visas be incorporated into the sanctions scheme of the EU. It is important, it underlined, that the 27-country bloc adopt a common position on the matter.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is also exploring the possibility of drafting national legislation that would enable officials to impose stricter rules on Russian tourists. Tanner told Helsingin Sanomat, however, that the project entails major open questions that make it unlikely that the law can be enacted in the seven months left in this electoral term.
“It’ll take time to protect good legislative practice. The technical schedule alone is starting to be pretty much impossible in this electoral term,” he said.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT