31 August 2022, by Victoria Séveno
Speaking to RTL Nieuws on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra announced that the Dutch government supported the controversial proposal for the European Union to ban the issuing of visas to Russian tourists.
Dutch government in favour of EU ban on tourists visas for Russians
While Hoekstra emphasised that different rules should apply to visas for students and refugees, the Dutch Foreign Minister made it clear that the Netherlands would advocate against the issuing of tourist visas to Russian citizens, saying he didn’t agree that the rule would unfairly punish Russian civilians for the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“On the one hand, you want interpersonal contact and you also want to recognise the difference between the state of Russia and Russian citizens,” Hoekstra explained to RTL Nieuws. “At the same time, we see that the vast majority of people who come here come to spend money in the PC Hooftstraat [in Amsterdam] are often rich Russians who are also regularly affiliated with the regime.”
Over the course of the coming days, representatives from all EU member states – including Hoekstra – will meet in Prague to discuss the potential ban. The Dutch Foreign Minister hopes he and his colleagues will be able to reach an agreement: “[I hope] we can eventually walk out having agreed on a ban on tourist visas, leaving other visas untouched.”
Some EU member states argue visiting Europe is a privilege, not a right
Some EU countries, including Czechia and Estonia, have already restricted Russian access to tourist visas. The Ukrainian government has called for the EU to block all Russian visa requests, arguing that “[Russians] should be denied the right to cross borders until they have learned to respect them.” Similarly, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas believes that “visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right.”
While many have joined calls for an EU-wide ban, some of the key members of the bloc – notably Germany and France – are more hesitant. These member states worry the ban would further antagonise the people of Russia, and argue that the move would make it harder for Russian dissidents to flee Putin’s regime. The EU is also looking into options for making visa applications significantly more expensive for Russian citizens.
Figures from European border agency Frontex reveal that nearly one million Russians have arrived in the EU since the outbreak of the war at the end of February. Interestingly, data shows that the Netherlands hasn’t issued any tourist visas to Russian citizens since April, which the Foreign Minister says is a result of a lack of staff.