COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Monday that Berlin would not back several fellow European countries that have called for an EU-wide move to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens.
The nations backing such a ban say that Russians should not be able to take vacations in Europe while Moscow wages war in Ukraine. Finland and Denmark want an EU decision and some EU countries bordering Russia already no longer issue visas to Russians.
“This is not the war of the Russian people. It is (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's war and we have to be very clear on that topic,” Scholz said.
“It is important to us to understand that there are a lot of people fleeing from Russia because they are disagreeing with the Russian regime,” he told a press conference on the sidelines of a one-day meeting of the five Nordic leaders in Oslo to which the German chancellor was invited.
“All the decisions we make (within the EU) should not make it more complicated to go for freedom, to leave the country," Scholz said.
The visa issue is expected to be raised at an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Aug. 31.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin who backs a ban, said that it was an issue that “we need to discuss.”
“It is not a black or white question, there are shades of grey,” she said at the same press conference.
The EU banned air travel from Russia after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine. But Russians can still travel by land to neighboring EU countries and apparently are then taking flights to other European destinations.
Visas, issued in Europe’s travel zone, known as the “Schengen area,” can be used in the zone's 26 countries, including 22 EU nations plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Normally, people and goods move freely between these countries without border checks.