Unnecessary sanction against Russian citizens


In one of the main retaliations against Russian citizens due to the special operation in Ukraine, the EU decided on August 31 to restrict the access of tourists from Russia to visas to enter any country in the bloc. Writes Lucas Leiroz

The West continues to advance with its anti-Russian coercive measures, despite the opinion of several analysts to stop sanctions. In a recent meeting, European authorities agreed to suspend the visa facilitation agreement between Russians and Europeans, taking a new step towards the unrealistic objective of “isolating” Russia. The measure tends to harm Europeans themselves, as well as exacerbating global tensions amid the current security crisis.

In one of the main retaliations against Russian citizens due to the special operation in Ukraine, the EU decided on August 31 to restrict the access of tourists from Russia to visas to enter any country in the bloc. The measure, which although radical was already expected, suspends the validity of an international visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia, creating a scenario of international instability and diplomatic frictions.

Contrary to what happens between Americans and Europeans, who can travel mutually without a visa, Russians need this type of authorization to enter the EU. The bureaucracy and application costs were facilitated by an agreement between Brussels and Moscow, which made the process of obtaining a European visa for Russian citizens easier than the usual procedure for citizens of other regions of the planet. However, now it will be much more difficult and, above all, more expensive for a Russian citizen to cross the borders of the European bloc.

Commenting on the case, the head of the European Union foreign policy Josep Borrell emphasized that there was a political agreement between the European authorities on the need to review the visa policy and suspend the visa deal, but that the launch of new legal guidelines on the procedure is yet to be done. He further commented that the suspension of the agreement will allow the implementation of a system of individual analysis for the selection of eligible Russian citizens. In other words, Europeans will analyze all Russian individuals who are entering the bloc and will or will not authorize them to travel based on personal data, which will very likely result in a biased and ideological selection system, in which only Russian citizens who do not support the operation in Ukraine will be allowed.

“We agreed politically, this is not a legal text but it is a political agreement, we agreed that something has to be done and therefore let me try to summarize in concrete terms what we politically agreed on. Firstly the full suspension of the EU Russia visa facilitation agreement (…) This will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by the EU member states. It’s going to be more difficult, it’s going to take longer (…) [but] This will [also] allow for visas to be granted on individual basis on a thorough statement on each individual case and especially for specific groups of people”, he said.

The European measure was not so well received among Western thinkers. Many analysts see this type of measure as unnecessary and ineffective, as well as anti-strategic, considering that it punishes innocent Russian citizens for decisions made by their government, having no real effect on the Ukrainian military scenario.

For example, Swiss politician and journalist Guy Mettan, former director of the Geneva Press Club, commented on the case saying: “This decision marks a new step in the European waves of sanctions against Russia as it strikes an entire people indiscriminately. Several countries and European leaders had expressed serious doubts about the moral and philosophical justification of a collective punishment that strikes both the innocent and the supposed guilty”.

In the same sense, Paolo Raffone, director of the Brussels-based geopolitical think tank CIPI Foundation, stated: “EU measures to unilaterally suspend the EU-Russia Visa Facilitation Agreement [speaks to] the lack of standing of EU foreign policy. Such a measure is insignificant on the strategic ground, as it mostly penalizes ordinary Russian citizens. Such EU anti-Russian hysteria [brings to mind] the Catholic kings against the Muslims (and the Jews) some centuries ago”.

It is also necessary to emphasize the strategic sense of facilitating the granting of visas to Russian citizens. Russia and Europe share the same continental landmass, which is why it is normal for there to be a large flow of travelers. The Russian consumer market is very strong, as Moscow is an emerging nation with a rising middle class. So, it is common for Russian consumers to travel to Europe and shop, which favors both sides in a strategic business relation.

However, European leaders seem no longer interested in mutually beneficial agreements, but in radical and Russophobic measures whose sole purpose is to unconditionally isolate Russia. Obviously, the European business community, which has an interest in the Russian consumer market, may not share this same opinion, which tends to generate conflicts of interest between businessmen and politicians on the European scenario in the near future.

Furthermore, it is unacceptable that Europeans want to monitor the opinions of Russian citizens, creating a system of individual selection of eligible travelers. In practice, the EU will be inciting political dissent and anti-government militancy in Russia, which is an affront to Moscow’s sovereignty, demanding measures in response.

Once again, Western leaders take truly irrational measures to achieve the goal of “canceling” Russia. Sooner or later, however, these leaders will realize that it is impossible to cancel the biggest country on the planet and will have to retreat in their measures.

Lucas Leiroz, researcher in Social Sciences at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical consultant.


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