Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

Dutch passport control for trucks at the port of Hoek van Holland on January 4, 2021. (Sem van der Wall/ANP/AFP/Getty Images/File)

The European Commission on Tuesday unveiled a plan to suspend the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia, which would make it more expensive and difficult for Russians to travel to EU member states.

European Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced the plan at a news conference in Brussels, saying there was “no basis for a privileged relationship between Russia and the EU” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It comes after European foreign ministers last week reached a political consensus to suspend the visa deal entirely.

“The proposal to suspend the visa facilitation agreement would put an end to all facilities for Russian citizens applying for short-term visas to the Schengen area,” a European Commission press release said on Tuesday.

Johansson stressed that the plan would ensure that “Russian citizens will no longer enjoy privileged access to the EU”.

The commissioner said Russians trying to enter the EU for tourism and leisure purposes would face a “longer” and “more expensive” process. Multiple-entry visas also have more restrictions, Johansen added.

As part of this, the visa fee will increase from 35 euros ($34.66) to 80 euros ($79.23) while the time frame for decisions from embassies will increase from 10 days to 15 days. Visa applicants are also required to submit a long list of documentary evidence while applying for the visa, the press release said.

Despite the suspension, “the EU remains open to certain categories of Russian visa applicants traveling for essential purposes, including family members of EU citizens, journalists, dissidents and civil society representatives in particular,” the press release said.

What comes next?: According to the press release, the Commission will now have to wait until the European Council considers a proposal to fully repeal the visa agreement. If the European Council approves, the suspension will take effect on the second day of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

“It also proposes a common EU approach of not recognizing Russian passports issued in occupied foreign territories, as Russia is currently expanding the practice of issuing ordinary Russian passports to non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine, particularly the Kherson and Zaporizhzia regions.”

The EU stressed that its visa facilitation agreements are “based on mutual trust and respect for common values ​​between the EU and a given country”.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is incompatible with a trusting relationship and against the spirit of partnership based on visa facilitation agreements,” the coalition added.

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