ARCHIV - 02.07.2021, Berlin, Schönefeld: Eine Beamtin der Bundespolizei am Flughafen kontrolliert eine Reisende aus Sankt Petersburg (Russland). (zu dpa «Streit um Visa-Vergabe: Berlin und Paris wollen Russen reisen lassen») Foto: Fabian Sommer/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Germany and France are jointly speaking out against a far-reaching entry ban for Russian citizens in the EU. “We should think about clever ways to use the important lever of issuing visas,” says a position paper sent to the other member states for the meeting of foreign ministers this Tuesday and Wednesday in Prague.

Applications from Russian nationals should be carefully scrutinized for possible security risks. At the same time, one should not underestimate the impact of direct experience of life in democracies. This applies in particular to future generations.

“Our visa policy should reflect this and continue to enable interpersonal contacts with Russian nationals in the EU who are not connected to the Russian government,” says the paper, which is available to the German Press Agency. They therefore want to maintain a legal framework that allows students, artists, scientists and specialists in particular to enter the EU – regardless of whether they could face political persecution.

One warns against far-reaching restrictions of the visa policy. It is important to prevent the Russian narrative from being fed and from alienating future generations. In addition, so-called “rally around the flag” effects could occur. This means that citizens sometimes tend to stand united behind their leadership in the event of attacks and provocations from outside.

The background to the German-French position is the discussion that has been going on for days about whether Russians should be prevented from traveling to the EU for shopping trips and vacations, while thousands of people are dying in Ukraine because of the war.

Most recently, it was considered likely that, as a first step, the existing agreement with Russia to facilitate the issuance of visas would be completely suspended. This step would significantly increase the costs and effort for applicants and it could allow EU states to significantly restrict the issuance of visas for the Schengen area. So far, after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the agreement has only been officially suspended for businessmen, government officials and diplomats.

Countries such as the Czech Republic and Finland have long since stopped issuing new visas to Russian citizens on their own initiative. There are very few exceptions, such as for those who are politically persecuted or close family members of EU citizens. “We are convinced that a clear signal must be sent to Russian society,” said Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala on Monday after a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.