From September 19, Estonia closes entry for Russian citizens, including those with Schengen visas issued by third countries. Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu announced this at a press conference, he is quoted by Interfax. As European law lawyer Alexei Dimitrov told The Insider, anyone with a visa can be denied entry if they pose a “threat to public order and security.”
According to the Estonian minister, other states of the Baltic region, Lithuania and Latvia, will do the same. In addition, Poland intends to introduce a ban on entry for Russian tourists with Schengen visas. Reinsalu said the ban applies to people traveling on tourist visas and does not affect those wishing to visit the country for the purpose of meeting with relatives and "for other humanitarian reasons."
The agency claims that Reinsalu also issued an appeal to Russian citizens: "Don't come to Estonia with Schengen visas, you are not welcome here!"
Alexei Dimitrov, legal adviser to the Greens faction in the European Parliament, commented on Estonia's decision to The Insider. He clarified that he expresses his own opinion, and not the position of the faction or the European Parliament.
“According to the Schengen Border Code, a visa is a necessary but not sufficient condition for crossing the external borders of the EU, at least for citizens of those countries with which there is a visa regime. States can refuse entry to those who have a valid visa, a list of these grounds is also in the Schengen Border Code. One of these grounds is the threat that a person poses to public order, safety and health.”
The specialist clarified that before this situation, bans were introduced on an individual basis. According to him, there is a Schengen information system, which indicates a ban on the entry of a particular person, and the border guard checks those entering in this system. Now the Baltic countries, according to the lawyer, will rely not on an individual assessment, but on the presence of Russian citizenship, which indicates "a possible threat to security."
“This is a new interpretation and it is difficult to say how the court of the European Union will look at it if such a case comes to it.”
The lawyer recalled that Finland decided not to take any measures at the national level, but to see what the European Commission would say. If the European Commission considers that national measures are contrary to the visa code or the Schengen border code, then it can open a procedure for violating European Union law against these countries, Dmitrov concluded.
From June 1 to August 31 this year, Estonia expelled 99 Russian citizens from the country and denied entry to 582 Russians, the Estonian publication Postimees reported , citing the Police and Border Guard Department of the republic. According to the press secretary of the Police and Border Guard Board, Britta Sepp, in 95 per cent of cases of deportation, foreigners posed a threat to public order and security, or their reason for staying in the country had expired. The remaining five percent were expelled for other reasons, including denial of international protection or residence permits, Sepp said.
Earlier, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia agreed to significantly restrict the movement of Russian citizens with Schengen visas across their land borders. Countries have provided exceptions for humanitarian reasons, as well as for those who enter for family reasons or medical orders, for truck drivers and diplomats. Before that, the EU supported a complete halt to the visa facilitation agreement for Russians from 12 September.