VILNIUS - The speakers of the Baltic parliaments say they would support a regional initiative to bar Russians on tourist visas, saying, however, they would deem an EU-level decision a priority.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen said the issue of visa restrictions was also discussed at a meeting of Nordic-Baltic parliamentary speakers in Kaunas, held at her invitation. The parliament speakers from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are attending the meeting.
"I would see the sense for the European Union to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens as this is essentially a matter of our principled approach. However, if we fail to have a common understanding soon, regional solutions and individual solutions should of course be considered", she said.
"Practically all parliaments are holding this discussion, this is a matter under discussion," Cmilyte-Nielsen said during a visit to Rukla, Lithuania's central Jonava District, with her Estonian, Latvian and Finnish counterparts.
Lithuania decided back in March to stop issuing visas to Russian and Belarusian citizens, the Seimas speaker said, adding that she will consider a common European decision a priority.
Speaker of the Latvian Saeima Inara Murniece says the Latvian parliament is still discussing the issue and the majority of Latvian lawmakers agree to stop the issuance of visas to Russian citizens and to issue visas only on humanitarian grounds, just as Lithuania does.
However, she still has hopes for a pan-EU consensus, reminding that the EU, which initially disagreed on a gradual introduction of sanctions for Russia, found a compromise in the end.
"But, on the other hand, we need the whole EU with us. But if we can't reach a consensus within the EU, we are ready to go forward with our own decisions. We will see it, initially, it might seem, that there's no possibility to reach a consensus (...). I have no doubt that Lithuania, Estonia and some other countries have already a clear vision on how to react to this situation," the Latvian parliament speaker said.
Juri Ratas, speaker of the Estonia's parliament, also hopes for a compromise during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague next week.
"If it's not possible, of course, Estonia prefers that we have this regional consensus between the Baltic countries and Poland (...). The government must have this kind of discussions. Of course, I am supportive, but, first of all, it would have much more power, if we could find a consensus-solution within the EU level," he said.
Matti Vanhanen, speaker of the Finnish parliament, says his country's government is also discussing the possibility of granting visas to Russians only on humanitarian grounds, adding, however, that the EU cannot remain divided.
"If we split us by having all different policies, it will weaken us a lot. So, our purpose is to find EU-level solutions. If not, I would not speculate what the next one will be," he said, adding that discussion in the Finnish parliament should take place in September but any decision will depend on the Finnish government's position.
Speaking earlier in the day, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the Baltic states, Poland and possible Finland would consider a regional solution, if the EU failed to agree on the visa issue.