Brussels proposes to further strengthen controls to grant visas to Russian tourists, to prevent the entry of those who may pose “a threat to security”. These guidelines to governments, which have jurisdiction over borders, come amid “geopolitical and security concerns related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” explains the European Commission: “The recent escalation of the war by Russia, through military mobilization and bogus ‘referendums’, led to an increase in citizens, including conscripts and their families, fleeing the Russian Federation. The guidelines call for heightened security scrutiny when issuing visas to Russians and stricter border controls, while fully respecting EU asylum law.”
These guidelines call on Member States’ consulates and border authorities to “apply a higher degree of security control and a coordinated approach when conducting individual assessments of Russian citizens’ visa applications and controls at the Union’s external borders.”
The European Commissioner for the Interior, Ylva Johansson, has stated: “The threat to security is real. We are making sure that we have a consistent and united approach at the EU’s external borders with regard to Russian citizens and also when it comes to enforcing strict rules on the issuance of short-stay visas for Russian citizens. At the same time, Europe will not close its doors to those who really need protection.”
According to Brussels, “Member States must assess the conditions under which Schengen visas can be issued to Russian citizens in a restrictive and coordinated manner, they must apply a strict approach when evaluating the justification for the trip, also those Russian citizens fleeing military mobilization ”.
If a visa applicant (for example, a person fleeing a military mobilization) plans a prolonged stay in the EU, “the consulates of the Member States must treat the case according to the national rules applicable to long-stay visas. When it comes to short-stay visas, consulates are required to apply any humanitarian exception in a restrictive manner. It is up to the Member States, on the basis of an individual examination, to assess whether the applications of Russian citizens can fall into the category of humanitarian reasons.”
According to the European Commission, “Member States’ consulates should also carefully examine cases of Russians applying for a short-stay visa from outside Russia. Such cases should be addressed to the consulate responsible for your place of residence, usually in the Russian Federation.”
Revocation and annulment of valid visas
Member states “should also instruct their consulates and border guards to exercise increased scrutiny and take a strict approach with regard to re-assessing visas already issued to any citizen of the Russian Federation, on the basis of a new examination of the individual situation in the current geopolitical context”.
The mere possession of a visa does not confer an automatic right of entry into the Schengen area, recalls the European Commission: “In the event that there are grounds for cancellation or revocation, said decision can be made by the border guard regardless of the Member State. issue the visa.”
“The security of the external borders is a prerequisite for the functioning of the Schengen area without internal border controls,” says Brussels, which asks “Member States to strengthen security controls at external borders and follow a coordinated approach at the borders of the EU with the Russian Federation in order to prevent a Russian citizen who has been refused entry at one border from being admitted by another.”
“The guidelines are without prejudice to the applicable legal framework in the field of asylum, including the principle of non-refoulement,” says Brussels.
On September 6, the European Commission proposed the complete suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement with the Russian Federation. The EU Council formally voted on the proposal on September 9, and on the same day the Commission published guidelines for member states to help their consulates deal with short-stay visa applications submitted by Russian citizens.
During the high-level meeting on the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) on 26 September, Member States asked the European Commission to update the visa guidelines, issued on 9 September, and to provide guidance on checks border.