Photo: dp.ru

Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text

About European Union freezing the simplified visa regime for citizens of the Russian Federation.

If today the founding fathers of Marxism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, had the opportunity to write a new "Manifesto of the Communist Party", then they, being objective researchers, would probably have had to start their work not with a phrase about the ghost of communism wandering around Europe, but with a statement that the ghost of Russophobia is wandering around modern Europe. Moreover, we can say that right before our eyes, a negative attitude towards everything Russian – from gas and oil to culture and tourism – is being cemented as a new mandatory ideology of the countries of the so-called "collective West".

After the economic sanctions did not work, European politicians zealously set about destroying other sites of European-Russian cooperation, among which, of course, was tourism. The shooters, as expected, were two small but very independent Baltic republics – Latvia and Estonia, which for many years received considerable income from Russian tourists in their small budgets. Already on August 9, Estonian Prime Minister Kaya Kallas hacked from the shoulder. "Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians," the stern Estonian woman said. – It's time to end tourism from Russia!".  In support of her deep thought, she put forward the thesis that a simple tourist trip to Europe is "a privilege, not one of human rights." 

Less than four days before, Latvia had made its shot. "Due to the international situation, the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in the Russian Federation has suspended the acceptance of visa applications for citizens of the Russian Federation for an indefinite period," the Embassy of Latvia warned Russians on its website. Further, the more respectable players of the European tourist market rushed into the round dance of Russophobic dances – the Czech Republic, Finland and Greece, which joined them, until recently was one of the main beneficiaries of the arrival of guests from Russia, which in record 2013 there were 1.3 million, and in the "doc-shaped" 2019 – 800 thousand.

The "hot Finnish guys" working in the Suomi Foreign Ministry decided not to cut the branches, but simply to file them thoroughly, reducing the number of tourist visas issued to Russians by 10 times from September 1 (!). As for the Czech Republic, its plans were announced in early August by the mouth of Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky. "There can be no question of ordinary tourism for Russians," while a special military operation of the Russian Federation is taking place in Ukraine, the diplomat said. The Minister proudly recalled that just two days after the start of the SVO, the Czech Republic suspended the issuance of visas to Russian citizens, followed by a similar ban for citizens of Belarus. It is difficult to explain the barriers on the way to the Czech Republic for Russians with rational arguments characteristic of mentally healthy people: after all, up to 400 thousand Russian tourists visited Prague alone every year before the pandemic (2012 was a record with a result of 492 thousand Russians), each of whom spent on average about 2 thousand crowns (about $ 100) daily, leaving an additional 7 thousand crowns in fashion stores.

Before our eyes, the once powerful flow of Russian tourists coming to Bulgaria is drying up. It is expected that there will be only about 50 thousand flights via Istanbul, Belgrade and Dubai this year. For comparison: in the last "pre-family" year, there were 550 thousand fans of Bulgarian hospitality from the Russian Federation, and in Soviet times up to 1 million Soviet people came to the beaches of people's Bulgaria annually. 

The positions of Denmark and the Netherlands, traditionally unfriendly to the Russian Federation, on the issue of Russian tourism surprised few people. "We will advocate for the termination of the issuance of tourist visas to Russians," Dutch Foreign Minister Vopke Hoekstra said. There was nothing particularly surprising here – after all, both of these states will not suffer big losses from the absence of Russian tourists. In the "docked" 2019, Russians received only 3,607 Danish visas, and in the Netherlands the number of guests from Russia slightly exceeded 1% of the total number of foreign tourists...

Appetite, according to a well-known saying, comes during a meal. Having isolated themselves from the flow of Russian tourists unworthy of the "privilege" of enjoying their stay in highly cultured Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Poland and others like them, the leaders of these states went further – they began to demand a complete ban on issuing Schengen visas to Russians in other EU countries.

Dmitry Peskov, the press Secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, called these attempts "an absolute lack of reason." "Step by step, both Brussels and individual European capitals demonstrate an absolute lack of reason," he said. "This set of irrationality, bordering on insanity, unfortunately allows for the possibility that such solutions can be discussed."

Unfortunately, the discussion of the ideas of cardinal restrictions on Russian tourism to the countries of the "collective West" did not end there – at an informal meeting of the EU Council in Prague on August 30-31, the foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries made a joint decision to completely freeze the visa facilitation agreement with Russia. This decision, in fact, was a compromise that allowed at least somehow to mask the "visa" split in the European Union that was planned at the Prague meeting - after all, France, Germany, Portugal and Austria opposed the "hot" Baltic and Polish guys. Chancellor Olaf Scholz admitted that he could "hardly" imagine a complete cessation of the issuance of Schengen visas to Russians, and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrel, openly stated that he did not support the proposal for a complete visa ban. The influential British newspaper Financial Times pointed out that at the meeting in Prague it was possible to promote "reasonable ways of using visa issuance as a lever" and avoid "radical restrictions".  "We should not throw out the baby along with the water, a complete ban on issuing visas to Russian citizens would completely cut off the last contacts with Russian civil society," Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg commented on the Prague decisions. In his opinion, stopping the issuance of visas to Russians would be "a counterproductive step in the fight against the Russian propaganda machine." After all, if the EU completely closed entry to Europe for Russian citizens, it would play into the hands of the Kremlin, not Brussels.

So, the situation is paradoxical. Visas to Europe, on the one hand, will be, but on the other hand – not. In addition to the increased cost of Schengen from 35 to 80 euros (which is unlikely to stop Russians wishing to visit Europe), the deadlines for processing visa applications are being lengthened and a so-called individual approach is being introduced, when visas will not be issued to all applicants, but only to "specific groups of Russians", the main among which will be dissidents signing when crossing the border a document condemning the conduct of a special military operation by the Russian Federation in Ukraine. In Prague, the EU ministers additionally agreed that in the issue of issuing or not issuing visas to Russians, each EU state now gets the right to individually establish a pass regime at its borders, that is, in fact, it gets the opportunity to cancel valid Schengen visas issued in other EU states.

Even before the adoption at the Prague meeting by EU ministers of decisions to freeze (and in fact to cancel) the simplified visa regime with the Russian Federation, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, who noted that the leaders of the European Union "got their Russophobic clucking," suggested that the real steps taken in Prague will show how Europe treats Russians. "The Europeans will once again show their true face and distract Russia and its citizens from conducting a special military operation with lies and delusional promises," Medvedev added. So the closure by Brussels of the window to Europe cut by Peter the Great for Russia will most likely have a positive value.

As for the background of the decision to tighten the visa regime for Russians, the idea suggests itself that the current European leaders subconsciously want to isolate the inhabitants of Europe choking in insane gender reforms from Russians – carriers of traditional morality and normal ethical values, and the special military operation of the Russian Federation in Ukraine is clearly playing second fiddle here.