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EU Foreign Policy Chief Rejects Calls to Ban All Russian Visas

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s foreign policy chief pushed back against a proposal by some member states bordering Russia to prevent the nation’s citizens from entering the bloc, as its foreign ministers prepare to discuss a stop to tourist visas next week.

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“To forbid the entrance to all the Russians is not a good idea,” Josep Borrell said at a conference in Spain. “We have to be more selective.”

Borrell said the EU shouldn’t open its doors to oligarchs but that “there are many Russians that want to flee the country because they don’t want to live in this situation.”

The EU is set to discuss banning travel visas for Russian tourists at a gathering of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Prague later this month, with countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Finland urging a bloc-wide ban in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has urged caution over a broad visa ban.

Estonia has said it would pursue a blanket Schengen visa ban on Russian nationals if the EU doesn’t reach an agreement, closing off one of the few land borders after the bloc halted flights from Russia. Estonia will present the proposal to the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, ahead of the meeting of foreign ministers.

Borrell said some countries have already taken a certain number measures on the visa bans that other EU countries are not going to support, noting it would have been better to discuss it first at EU-level.

Speaking in Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said his government, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, would push for a suspension of the EU’s visa facilitation agreements with Russia and Belarus, which has supported Moscow in its aggression.

“That seems to be achievable,” Lipavsky said. “We want to start debates about limiting visa issuance to Russians and people from Belarus. Member states’ opinions are split in this respect, and there is a lot of work ahead of us.”

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