Statement by Commissioner Johansson on general visa issuance in relation to Russian applicants and controls of Russian citizens at the external borders
Firstly I want to say – Putin cannot win, and will not win
Every step he takes show we cannot trust him, we cannot deal with him or show weakness
The recent ‘sham referenda’ in occupied Ukrainian and the mobilisation of Russian citizens confirm this.
Now following the mobilisation order, we can see Russian citizen trying to enter the EU.
That is, from certain perspectives, understandable, they don’t want to go to war in another country that has been occupied by their leader.
This said, avoiding the mobilisation does not necessarily equate to opposing the war as such. In addition, it cannot be excluded that Russian citizens trying to circumvent the mobilisation by getting into the EU, also constitute a threat to public policy, the internal security or the international relations of a Member State or the Union as a whole.
That’s why, on our external borders we should be very vigilant regarding letting people from Russia in.
We already abolished the VISA facilitation agreement, we adopted guidelines for Member States – so already now it is very cumbersome and expensive to enter the EU from Russia as a tourist.
Now we take one more step.
We must ensure the security of Europe and its citizens.
We have to keep in mind – to come to Europe is a privilege, not a fundamental right.
We should stay open, of course, to dissidents, journalists independent from the Russian government.
These are bravely and actively opposing the Putin Regime.
But we should very carefully scrutinize case by case every application.
And we must take the geopolitical aspects into account.
What is new in the Guidance?
The Guidance we are adopting today covers both Visas and the management of External Borders
On Visas we have updated our previous guidance
Stricter assessments and security over new visas
- Schengen visas are issued for short stays of 90 days cannot cannot provide a long-term solution for Russian citizens seeking to avoid mobilisation.
- For Schengen visas we have restricted our approach for all Russians, including for Russian citizens escaping the military mobilisation order.
- MS should apply a strict approach assessing the justification of the journey.
- It should be ascertained whether there are reasonable doubts as to the reliability of the statements made by the applicant or his/her intention to leave the territory of the MS before the expiry of the visa applied for.
- This is without prejudice to the right of such individuals to seek international protection under the EU asylum laws or the possibility to apply for national long-stay visas or residence permits at EU consulates.
Restrictive approach of place of visa application
- Following President Putin’s military mobilisation order, significant numbers of Russian conscripts have fled to neighbouring and other countries with the aim to avoid the Russian army. There are widespread expectations that many will seek to obtain Schengen visas in view of continuing their journey inside the EU.
- In our guidance we make it clear that – pursuant to Article 6 of the Visa Code – applications should only be examined by the consulate of the competent MS in whose jurisdiction the applicant legally resides.
- On this basis Member States should not accept Schengen visa applications from citizens of the Russian Federation that are present in a third country, such as for example Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates etc. for short stay or for purposes of transit.
- Such applicants should be directed to the consulate competent for their place of residence, normally in the Russian Federation.
- Exceptions can be made in cases of hardship and for humanitarian reasons (e.g. family visits due to sudden serious illness of a relative residing in the EU, dissidents, human rights defenders).
Confirms the humanitarian exceptions and clarifies its individual application
- The Visa Code contains derogatory provisions allowing for the issuing of short stay visas on humanitarian grounds, for reasons of national interest or because of international obligations.
- This is relevant, for instance, in case of visa applications lodged by dissidents, independent journalists, human rights defenders and representatives of civil society organisations and their close family members, that are not controlled by the government of the Russian Federation and their close family members.
- Member States should apply these derogatory provisions after a thorough assessment. It is therefore up to Member States, based on an individual examination, to assess if applications by Russian citizens can qualify as falling under the category “humanitarian grounds”. There is no unique set of documents that would prove that a person qualifies for a visa on humanitarian grounds, because individual circumstances differ too widely and need a case-by-case assessment.
- MS should also adopt a strict approach with respect to reassessing visas already issued to any citizen of the Russian Federation, similarly to the principles applied when assessing new visa applications
- In case there are grounds for annulment/revocation, such a decision may be taken by the border guard irrespective of the visa issuing MS. The authority should inform the issuing MS accordingly as well as affix the corresponding stamp on the visa sticker and enter the information on the annulment/revocation in the Visa Information System.
Coordinated and through checks at the external borders to ensure protection of the Schengen area
Coordinated strong checks at the EU external borders protect not only security in the MS concerned, but also the integrity of the Schengen area as a whole.
Coherent and comprehensive checks of Russian citizens
- Border guards at all the border crossing points at the external borders should assess in a coherent fashion whether a Russian citizen crossing the EU’s external border fulfils the entry conditions into the Schengen area. This is to avoid that an applicant who has been denied entry by a Member State is admitted by another one.
- In accordance with Article 30 of the Visa Code, the mere possession of a visa does not confer an automatic right of entry into the Schengen area.
- If the entry of a Russian citizen is refused on the grounds that they are considered to pose a threat to the public policy or internal security of the MS entry should be refused.
- With a view to carrying out such an individual assessment, border guards should notably conduct a thorough interview with a Russian citizen seeking to enter the Schengen area. In addition to a check on the basis of travel document data, a check using fingerprints in the Schengen Information System should be carried out, to also detect alerts on persons using false or unknown identities.
- In this context, border guards should also take into account that allowing a Russian citizen to enter the Schengen area at a time when their country of origin is engaging in an illegal military aggression against an EU candidate country, could seriously harm the international relations of any MS with Ukraine, with another MS, or the EU as such. Therefore, the Commission recommends that border guard authorities consider the current geopolitical context when carrying out their case-by-case assessment. In light of the additional workload this reinforced scrutiny will lead to, Member States are encouraged to transfer additional staff to the border guards force located at the external borders concerned.
However, the heightened scrutiny must not lead to denying entry to persons that have a legitimate interest to leave the Russian and should be performed in a way that preserve the right to seek asylum and prevents risks of non refoulement.
The carriers are obliged to immediately assume responsibility for third-country nationals who are refused entry into the territory of one of the MS. r.
It is therefore important that carriers remain vigilant when verifying the presence of travel documents required for entry. The Member States are encouraged to offer practical support to the carriers in this regard.
The Commission will closely monitor the implementation of these new guidelines, in particular through the Blueprint Network. We will also discuss their implementation with the Member States in the context of IPCR and adapt them in accordance with the evolving reality on the ground.
Source – EU Commission