RIGA/KAUNAS - The Baltic states have reached an agreement to significantly limit border crossing for Russian citizens who have Schengen visas, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) announced.
At the same time, there will be some exceptions.
The decisions will be taken by national governments in accordance with national procedures, and they will enter into force at the same time, the minister said.
The agreement was announced after the meeting of foreign ministers of the Baltic and Nordic countries held in Kaunas on Wednesday.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has expressed hope that the issue will be finally resolved in the near future.
"I hope it will be a matter of days, maybe weeks," Landsbergis told journalists in Kaunas.
As reported, the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia could be suspended as early as next Monday, EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Tuesday.
"This suspension means Russian citizens will no longer enjoy privileged access to the EU, for example, for tourist and leisure purposes," Johansson said in Brussels.
The EU's foreign ministers endorsed going back to stricter rules for Schengen visas for Russian citizens at a meeting last week.
A visa issued by any Schengen country grants access to all 26 members of the passport-free zone.
Johansson said EU countries could formally sign off the measure before the end of the week, allowing stricter rules to come into force as early as next Monday.
Should the visa facilitation agreement be suspended, Russian tourists will face longer waiting times for their visas and will have to pay a processing fee of EUR 85 instead of EUR 35.
Visas valid for multiple entries will be restricted too, Johansson said.
The move is another punitive measure by the EU in response to Russia's war on Ukraine.
The visa agreement between the EU and Russia has been in place since 2007. Shortly after the invasion, EU countries already suspended visa facilitations for businessmen, government officials and diplomats.
Johansson also announced on Tuesday guidelines for issuing new visas once the facilitations are fully lifted.
These should ensure that "journalists, dissidents, human rights activists, students and people that travel for family reasons" could still travel to the Schengen area, Johansson said.