JOHANNA VUORELMA, a research professor at the Centre for European Studies of the University of Helsinki, has identified a number of inconsistencies in the decision-making process that is set to restrict the ability of Russians to enter Finland.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) on Friday said Finland would take action to prevent all entries based on tourism, signalling a complete turnaround in the government’s stance.
The decision does include some exceptions that have yet been either ironed out or made public.
The Finnish government had referred to principles of the rule of law throughout last summer and early autumn as justification for continuing to issue tourist visas for Russians. Vuorelma on Monday told Helsingin Sanomat that the government claimed initially that a collective suspension of visa issuance is unfeasible because the assessment must always be conducted at the individual level.
“Still the decision was ultimately made with certain exceptions,” she stated.
The government had also estimated that such a change of course on the visa issue would require legislative amendments and violate the rules of the Schengen Area. Ultimately, however, no legislative amendments were made and a section that made the move possible was found.
Vuorelma clarified to the newspaper that she is not reproaching the decision itself or its jurisprudence but rather the decision-making process leading up to it. The process, she explained, will likely increase misgivings about the rule of law at a time when its basic pillars are being politicised around Europe.
“It doesn’t look good if you first point to the rule of law and then go against your earlier justification.”
She added that the process could also complicate foreign-policy making in nearby areas. By pointing to principles of the rule of law, she explained, the government implicitly called into question the decisions made by Poland and the Baltics.
“Diplomatically this didn’t create the impression of regional solidarity,” told Vuorelma.
Finland ultimately sided with its fellow member states, albeit on different grounds. While Poland and the Baltics have defined Russian tourists as a security threat, Finland is set to prevent them from entering the country on grounds of the harm they could cause to its international standing. Vuorelma warned that the vague justification could be used more freely in future in response to other immigration-related problems.
Helsingin Sanomat on Monday reported that the Finnish government is expected to make a final decision on the entry restrictions by Thursday.
Most Finns appear to be in favour of denying entry to Russian tourists. Ilta-Sanomat reported a week ago that seven in ten respondents to its survey expressed their support for an entry ban. Heated public discussion about the issue had continued since the removal of pandemic-related entry restrictions at the borders in early July.
The Finnish government had come under pressure to impose the ban not only from opposition parties, but also from Poland and the Baltics.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT