European officials are gathering for a two-day informal meeting in Prague to discuss the situation in Ukraine, and how European Union countries can support the country in terms of military and social support.
During the gathering, EU defense and foreign ministers will also consider further measures against Russia stemming from Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine six months ago.
One proposal put forward by Eastern European countries is to ban Russian tourists from entering the EU.
“In a situation where people in Ukraine are being tortured, murdered, and terrorised, Russian citizens should not be enjoying tourist trips to Europe,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in a statement.
“It is important that we limit the opportunities for Russian citizens to travel in Europe,” the statement said.
After all, tourism is a privilege, not a right,” Kallas added.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the Prague meeting, Artis Pabriks, Latvian deputy prime minister and defense minister, asked attendees to “just compare with for instance with the Second World War or other parts in history, we cannot simply give bonuses to people who are supporting such Presidents as Putin.”
Pabriks said he hoped that European countries “will understand that there must be more restrictions on travel for Russian citizens,” but reaching a consensus among the 27 EU countries may be difficult.
In a memo circulated ahead of the meeting, France and Germany urged a more cautious approach to changes to the EU’s visa policy, “in order to prevent feeding the Russian narrative and trigger unintended rallying-around the flag effects and/or estranging future generations.”
“While understanding the concerns of some Member States in this context, we should not underestimate the transformative power of experiencing life in democratic systems,” the memo read.
EU visa policies “should reflect that and continue to allow for people to people contacts in the EU with Russian nationals not linked to the Russian government,” it said.