Brussels: EU member states are preparing to suspend a 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia over the Ukraine war, a British daily reported on Sunday.
EU foreign ministers are set to give the suspension political backing at a two-day informal meeting in Prague on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Financial Times said, citing three officials involved in the talks.
The move widens the partial suspension imposed in February for Russian government officials and business leaders to now include civilian Russian applicants for EU visas, the Financial Times was quoted as saying by dpa news agency.
Suspensions make the EU visa process more complicated, more expensive and more bureaucratic, as well as also increase the waiting time for approval, according to European Commission guidelines.
Further measures to restrict EU travel for Russian nationals, such as a limit on the amount of EU visas to be issued or to ban travel entirely, have not been decided, the report said, citing the officials participating in the negotiations.
The Czech Republic, Finland and Estonia, after imposing their own visa restrictions, have pushed for an EU-wide decision and called for a total ban on Russian nationals travelling to the bloc.
Germany and the commission, however, have urged caution against banning tourist visas or prohibiting Russian nationals from travelling to the bloc completely. Critics have also raised humanitarian concerns.
The European Union has already slapped Russia with multiple rounds of political and economic sanctions after February’s invasion of Ukraine including a ban on Russian airlines from EU airspace.
The idea of restricting Russian tourists to the EU has emerged recently after countries witnessed Russians arriving for summer holidays via neighbouring EU countries.
A visa issued by any one country grants access to all 26 members of the Schengen passport-free zone.