Polish, Baltic PMs want EU to limit free travel of Russian nationals

Leszek Szymański/PAP

Russian nationals should not be able to freely travel in the European Union, the prime ministers of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have said in a joint statement.

The statement comes amid wrangling in the EU over whether or not to ban Russians from travelling to and around the bloc.

"The Prime Minister of Poland - Mateusz Morawiecki, Estonia - Kaja Kallas, Lithuania - Ingrida Simonyte and Latvia - Arturs Krisjanis Karins have agreed on a joint regional approach regarding travel opportunities for Russian citizens," the prime ministers said in the statement, which was published on the Polish Prime Minister’s Office website on Thursday.

They expressed their desire to introduce temporary national measures against Russian citizens who hold EU visas. "This is to counteract direct threats to public order and security. At the same time, these countries will limit the possibility of entry of Russian citizens for tourism, cultural, sports and business purposes into the Schengen zone," the statement said.

"Countries bordering Russia are increasingly concerned about the substantial and growing influx of Russian citizens to the European Union and the Schengen area through our borders. We believe that this is becoming a serious threat to our public security and to the overall shared Schengen area," the prime ministers wrote.

The prime ministers added that "among the Russian citizens entering the EU/Schengen area, there are persons coming with the aim of undermining the security of our countries, insofar as three-quarters of Russian citizens support Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.

"Travel to the European Union is a privilege, not a human right," the four prime ministers added.

Having welcomed the decision to suspend the EU visa facilitation agreement with Russia as a necessary first step, the prime ministers wrote that "further measures are needed both to drastically limit the number of visas issued (primarily tourist visas), and to decrease the flow of Russian citizens into the European Union and the Schengen area."

The four countries "have agreed on a common regional approach and hereby express their political will and firm intention to introduce national temporary measures for Russian citizens holding EU visas in order to address imminent public policy and security threats and restrict entry into the Schengen area for Russian citizens travelling for tourism, culture, sport and business purposes."

"National temporary measures based on a common approach should enter into force in each of our countries separately, by September 19, 2022. The measures are adopted on the common grounds of protecting the public policy and internal security, as well as the overall safety of our shared Schengen space.

"We continue to seek a common approach on the EU level and asked the European Commission to propose respective measures on visas and entry restrictions that could be implemented in a unified manner by all Member States of the European Union and Schengen Associated Countries," the prime ministers said, adding that this was not an outright entry ban and commonly agreed legitimate exceptions will remain in force for, such as, dissidents, humanitarian cases, family members, and holders of residence permits.

"We fully uphold the need to continue to support opponents of the Putin regime and provide them with opportunities to leave Russia," the prime ministers concluded.