Even ordinary Russians will find it even more difficult to travel to the Schengen area. The European Union will suspend the validity of the agreement that facilitated the issuance of visas to Russian tourists. This was announced by the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, after an informal summit in Prague.
Russian tourists will thus lose the priority right to process their visa applications. “This will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by EU member states. It’s going to be more complicated, it’s going to take longer,” Borrell said.
Some states, such as the Czechia and some others, especially those close to Russia, demanded a complete moratorium on issuing visas to Russian citizens, but the ministers did not agree on that.
Finland found out that even though it does not issue visas itself, just like the Czechia, Russians get into the country thanks to Schengen visas issued by other EU states.
“Stop issuing visas to Russians. Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote on Twitter in early August. And she added that other countries issue visas and the burden is borne by Russia’s neighbors (Finland, Estonia and Latvia).
Russian properties in the Czech Republic:
The list of reports was published in the past months by two large reports on assets owned by Russians in the Czech Republic. You can study them in the following articles:
The Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marinová has the same opinion, as quoted by the Yle station at the time: “It is not right that Russia is waging an aggressive and brutal war in Europe, while at the same time Russians can live normally and travel around Europe as tourists.”
The views of the two prime ministers immediately provoked an irritated reaction from the Kremlin, whose spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke of the fact that “the people who spread these statements will come to their senses.”
The Czech authorities stopped issuing tourist visas to Russians right after the invasion, yet in the second quarter of this year over eight thousand people came here on Russian passports.
“They are primarily Russians living in Europe and traveling with a Russian passport. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not otherwise issue visas, and the Czech Republic is one of the strictest countries in terms of access to Russia,” said Jan Herget, director of the CzechTourism agency, in an interview for Seznam Zprávy. He adds that CzechTourism has withdrawn from Russia and does not expect any activities there for next year.
Borrell also confirms the increased number of border crossings between Russia and the EU since mid-July. “It has become a security threat to countries neighboring Russia,” he said, adding that many Russians travel just for fun, “as if there is no war raging in Ukraine.”
According to the European border control agency Frontex, almost a million people with Russian passports have arrived in the EU since the start of the war. Most of them arrived in Finland (333 thousand), Estonia (234 thousand) and Lithuania (132 thousand).
European countries expect the tourism business to lose about three million Russian visitors this year. The most affected countries will be Germany, Greece and Cyprus.
At the same time, the latter state is more dependent on tourism than the Germans or the Greeks: “Based on our estimates, we expected one million tourists from Ukraine and Russia to arrive this year, which is about 20-25 percent of the tourist market in Cyprus. The duration of this crisis is key. If it’s over in a month, we’ll come out of it unscathed. If it takes longer, no economy will come out clean,” noted Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides in May.
In the Czech Republic, where roughly half a million Russians used to go every year, according to Jan Herget, Karlovy Vary feels the shortfall most acutely: “The Russian clients were exceptional in one thing – compared to everyone else, they traveled all over the country, stayed here for a relatively long time and also spent a lot.”
According to him, tourists from Poland and Germany often visit places other than the “obligatory” Prague, but they are already more frugal compared to Russians.
In Karlovy Vary, in addition to missing spa guests, the freezing of Russian assets is also known. “Quite a lot of hotels are closed. On the other hand, there are a lot of properties considered to be Russian, but in reality they are owned by, for example, Uzbeks or Kazakhs,” reminds the director of CzechTourism.