Foreign Ministers agree to suspend Russia visa facilitation Agreement

1 September 2022

On Wednesday, EU Foreign Ministers met in Prague for an informal Foreign Affairs Council hosted by the Czech Presidency of the Council. After countries logged heads in the past week over whether to fully suspend visa for Russians, Ministers found a compromise agreement by suspending a visa facilitation agreement with Russia. 

The 2007 Agreement was designed to streamline the process, its suspension will once again make the visa application process for Russians lengthier and more expensive. Whether this will, however, deter those Russians able to travel to Europe remains to be seen.  

Over the past weeks, a number of Baltic and Central European Member States had already moved to stop issuing new visas as a result of these countries, specifically Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, having seen an influx of Russians tourists crossing the border using already-granted visas. 

With flights from Russia to the EU banned under the EU’s sanction’s regime, it appears that wealthy Russians are now driving across EU borders to then take inner-EU flights to their holiday destinations. Commenting on this development after the informal meeting, the EU’s Foreign Affairs chief, Josep Borrell, argued that “this has become a security risk” for countries in the region. 

While Foreign Affairs Ministers would not agree to fully stop issuing new Schengen area visas, they gave their formal approval to any Member State willing to impose tighter and more restrictive restrictions. 

Speaking of the suspension, Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Lipavský said that “we cannot continue as before. We have made progress at the meeting of Foreign Ministers and want to fully suspend the agreement that allows the simplified issuing of visas to citizens of the Russian Federation.”

Ministers also agreed to task the Commission to “examine” the millions of multi-year visas already issued to Russian citizens before the outbreak of the war and assess legal options to suspend these indefinitely.