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Ireland ‘needs to speak to UK’ before restricting Russian tourists

Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney says engagement with London because of Common Travel Area

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

Ireland would need to hold discussions with the UK ahead of making any move to restrict Russian tourists entering the country, said Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

He said the Common Travel Area (CTA) across the UK and Ireland meant Dublin would have to speak to London prior to tightening rules on Russian visas.

The Irish Foreign Minister made his comment as EU Foreign Ministers in Prague tightened visa restrictions but did not suspend the facility.

While it will make it more difficult and expensive for Russian tourists to get visas, it will barely effect oligarchs and is far short the blanket ban sought by some leaders and Ukraine.

Five EU countries that share land borders with Russia — Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — warned they will take action if the EU does not.

Germany and France say a blanket ban would unfairly punish all Russians and prevent Putin’s critics from escaping.

They also say it would play into the narrative he tells Russian that the West is against them.

The compromise decision was reached at a of foreign ministers meeting in Prague on Wednesday.

EU officials said countries can take additional measures at a national level.

Commission vice president Josep Borrell said an increase in Russian tourists convinced member states that something had to be done.

“We have seen many Russians traveling for leisure and shopping as if no war was raging in Ukraine,” he told reporters in Prague.

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“(Getting visas) is going to be more difficult, it’s going to be a longer process. Consequently, the number of new visitors will be substantially reduced.”

Full suspension of the 2007 visa facilitation arrangement, partially suspended at the start of the war, will mean that wait times and costs will probably go up for Russian tourists.

The cost will jump from €35 to €80.

Ireland will need to confer with London, said Coveney.

Ireland is not part of the Schengen zone. The long-standing CTA allows for free movement of UK and Irish citizens between the two countries.

“I can understand that a number of countries obviously want to raise this issue tomorrow and this evening in order again to raise the cost of what Russia is doing for Russians,” Mr Coveney said in Prague on Tuesday.

“Ireland is in an unusual space in this area because we’re not part of the Schengen area. We already have quite a strict regime in terms of the facilitation of visas coming from Russia, we don’t have a visa facilitation system like they have across Schengen, so we’re in a slightly different category already.

“And of course we have a Common Travel Area with the UK so on issues like this we’d need to speak to the UK as well, but certainly we can be part of this discussion.”


People gather for a Ukraine independence rally in Dublin last week (Brian Lawless/PA)

As well as potential restrictions on Russian visitor visas, the meetings in Prague will also discuss an EU plan to provide military training to Ukrainian forces.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher urged the Irish government to support a targeted ban on visas for Russians entering the EU.

“Over the past six months, the EU, as a collective, has implemented wide-ranging economic sanctions on Russia,” he said.

“While I wish we had gone further when it comes to banning the import of Russian gas, the EU sanctions have been an important sign of our strong opposition to Russian aggression.

“However, it’s time to move the sanctions package on to include applying bans on Russian tourist and non-humanitarian visas.

“I do not believe that EU Member States should be facilitating the holiday desires of Russian citizens, especially the oligarchs supporting Putin. While of course many Russians are opposed to the war, we need to make it clear to everyone in Russia that the continuation of this war by Putin will result in an impact in their own lives.

“Of course, visas should be provided to those Russian citizens actively fleeing persecution by Putin and his cronies. These brave leaders are well known and should be supported in escaping Russia. In addition, certain exemptions should be made for family-reunion and medical necessity reasons,

“My colleagues from the Baltics and Eastern Europe strongly support a visa ban, and I believe so too should the Irish government.”

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