Brussels: The European Commission on Friday urged EU member states to reassess the terms on which they grant visas to Russian travellers and to root out applicants that pose a security threat.
“We should not be naive, Putin’s aim is to destroy the EU and he would like to attack us where we are weakest,” warned EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.
She told a news conference in Nuijamaa near Finland’s border with Russia, that Moscow was responsible for an unprovoked war in Ukraine and warned that civilians could act as spies, saboteurs or provocateurs.
She alleged that some Russian travellers had sought to harass and humiliate Ukrainian refugees, who have been granted protected status within the EU.
“We can not exclude that people are coming with the aim to provoke, to try to get some social unrest, or to provoke violence or riots or things like that or to try to use propaganda,” she said.
On Friday, the EU formally suspended a 2007 visa facilitation pact that had made it easier and cheaper for Russians to travel to Europe, but stopped short of the full travel ban demanded by some member states.
Johansson said the new rules would still allow passage to vetted dissidents, journalists and humanitarian cases, but that applications for simple tourist and business visas should be “reassessed”.
The Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania — which border Russia — have already toughened their own visa rules, but Johansson said she expected them to follow the EU guidelines.
Just under a million Russians already hold visas for the EU’s Schengen travel area, and the commissioner said member states should also reassess these existing travel documents.