N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Leaders of eastern and Nordic EU memberstates have called for the EU to close its borders to Russian tourists. On the other hand, France and Germany are warning that could be counter-productive and strengthening President Putin’s hold over Russian citizens.
France and Germany have circulated a memo to the other memberstates, making clear they oppose a travel ban and warning against unintended consequences. ‘While limiting contacts with regime representatives and authorities to areas of vital EU interest, we need to strategically fight for the hearts and minds of the Russians, at least the segments not yet completely estranged from the West’, Paris and Berlin wrote.
Allowing Russians to leave their country is a good thing, France and Germany argue. They insist they ‘wish to maintain a legal framework that allows in particular students, artists, scholars, professionals to travel to the EU’. The memo warns ‘against far-reaching restrictions on our visa policy, in order to prevent feeding the Russian narrative and trigger unintended rallying-around the flag effects and estranging future generations’.
It looks like Paris and Berlin are smarter. While Putin tries to prevent Russian citizens from travelling abroad and seeing the bounties of the West, eastern and Nordic EU memberstates are calling for a new Iron Curtain!
Anyhow, the visa ban discussion will be back later in the year, when it will be difficult to identify new possible sanctions against Russian, according to pro-ban Finnish Foreign Minister Haavisto.