With no bloc-wide solution on Russian visas in sight, Finland will independently interpret EU and Schengen agreements to develop its own following increased border crossings prompted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on partial mobilisation.
The Baltic States and Poland have already banned Russians from entering while Finland has been sticking to Schengen zone agreements and waiting for EU-wide guidelines. Consequently, the country has been the only land border for Russian citizens to enter the EU.
Putin’s speech made that policy redundant, and the assumption is that the number of Russians wanting to leave the country will increase. Attending the UN Assembly, Foreign Minister Haavisto was adamant that tighter restrictions are now necessary.
On Thursday, Justice Chancellor Tuomas Pöysti paved the way for new regulations. Speaking to Ilta-Sanomat, Pöysti said that attempts to find a common EU stance on visas can now be considered dead and gone.
Therefore, the government and the authorities have more room for manoeuvres also in the legal framework. But since there is no time for new legislation there may be just one alternative left – to interpret independently the EU and Schengen agreements, Pöysti stated.
Expected is some political wrangling in the parliament. The opposition, particularly the nationalistic Finns Party would be ready to close the border if necessary while Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen (Green) considered such actions premature.
The Finnish Border Guard tweeted on Thursday morning that on Wednesday at crossing points in southeast Finland, 4,824 Russian citizens had crossed the border, a 57% increase from the week before. The eyewitness accounts in the afternoon told about queues of hundreds of metres but the situation was said to be calm and in control.
Meanwhile, an increased number of Russian citizens were reported to be entering Serbia this week with flight tickets costing up to €9,000 and eventually selling out completely.
(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)