The European Union has not stopped issuing visas to Russians, but simply made their acquisition more difficult, thus punishing ordinary citizens — another “ridiculous” decision “shooting Europe in the knee,” Armin-Paulus Hampel, a German journalist and former member of the Bundestag from the populist party Alternative for Germany, told Sputnik.
On Tuesday, the European Commission adopted a proposal to fully suspend the visa facilitation agreement with Moscow. The decision will complicate visa application process for Russian citizens and impose more restrictions for multiple entry visas. At the same time, the proposal does not provide for a total ban on the issuance of visas to the country’s citizens, as requested by several EU member states.
“The result of so much European cogitations is a bit ridiculous. Germany and France refused to stop issuing visas for Russian citizens, as was wanted by Poland, the Baltics and Finland, and the result is a series of small measures, such as asking 50 euros [$50] more for the visa, taking 15 days in place of 10, and ensuring ‘more scrutiny’ on visa requests,” Hampel said, adding that the decision to punish all Russians was terribly counterproductive.
The politician fully agreed with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who also called the EU proposal “another ridiculous decision in a series of ongoing absurdities.”
“Europe can call it ‘hurdles’ for the Russians but it is nothing much and shows how little the 27 member states can decide together. Not that I approve of their decisions, but even trying to be tough does not work!” Hampel added.
According to the expert, the bloc should listen to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the like calling for war not against Russians, but against the political elite in power in Moscow.
“If Europe wants to influence Russians, it should talk to them! Contrary to the stupid decision in Brussels, the EU should make it easier for young Russians especially, to listen to the European voice about Ukraine. Again Europe shoots itself in the knee, as we say in German,” the journalist added.
The level of exchanges between the West and Russia is much lower now than it was during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, Hampel noted, adding that “this is not the way forward.”
Moreover, the expert said that the visa issue was just “peanuts,” while the real problem was that the EU had imposed sanctions on Russian energy products.
“This refusal of the Europeans to continue buying Russian gas delivered by pipeline is a disaster for the European continent. Europe actually organizes it own decline,” Hampel concluded.
On February 24, Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine after the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk appealed for help in defending themselves against Ukrainian forces. The West responded by imposing comprehensive sanctions against Russia, with the EU pledging to end its dependence on Russian energy supplies. The restrictions have resulted in disruptions of supply chains and a spike in energy and food prices worldwide.
Moreover, in late February, the EU canceled visa preferences for Russian diplomats and other officials, as well as representatives of the Russian business community. At the time, the bloc said the restrictions would in no way affect interests of ordinary Russian citizens.