The Finnish government has decided to significantly limit traffic on the eastern border with Russia, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto has stated. Travel for the purpose of tourism to Finland or via Finland to other countries will become mostly impossible after this. The restrictions will come into force tomorrow, Friday, and will be in effect until further notice.
“The decision is basically aimed at completely preventing Russian tourism to Finland and related transit through Finland,” Haavisto said.
The government justifies its decision by a threat to international relations. In practice, based on the Schengen rules, border authorities are given the opportunity to interpret that a Russian tourist threatens Finland’s international relations.
“The border service takes this threat into account and on the basis of this, a person may be denied entry or a negative decision may be made on the visa application,” Haavisto explained.
The government explains the application of the norm regarding the threat to international relations by discussions with the leadership of Ukraine, the possibilities of circumventing restrictions on flights by the EU and Finland’s relations with the Baltic countries and Poland. The so-called referendums in the East of Ukraine and the explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea also affected the assessment.
In addition to the restriction, there is a list of about ten reasons, based on which a person can come to Finland with a tourist visa in the future. For example, someone can still visit family or relatives. Other valid reasons can be, for example, participation in the entrance exam to a Finnish educational institution. The reason can also be financial or work-related, such as a necessary business trip, or another agreed-upon reason, such as a job interview.
Border traffic is estimated to drop to half of current levels, but new visas are currently being issued at about 2% of the peak years before the coronavirus era.
The government also noted that there is a problem with hundreds of thousands of previously issued visas that are still valid.
The new provision can invalidate visas previously issued by Finland, but cannot cancel visas issued by other Schengen countries. Instead, the border authorities can prevent a person from entering Finland if he has a visa issued by another country.
As reported, during September 19-25, 66,000 Russians entered the countries of the European Union from Russia, which is 30% more than a week earlier – the surge coincided with the announcement by the Russian authorities of the so-called partial mobilization. It should be noted that the Russian Federation deployed a mobile mobilization point on the border with Finland.