Germany and France have rejected a proposed blanket ban on Russian citizens entering the European Union (EU) in a joint position paper.
“We should think about smart ways to make use of the important lever of the issuing of visas,” reads the paper sent to other EU member states ahead of a Foreign Ministers’ meeting taking place in Prague on Tuesday and Wednesday.
While accepting that visa applications made by Russian citizens should be closely scrutinized for potential security risks, the paper also warns against underestimating “the transformative power of experiencing life in democratic systems at first-hand”.
“Our visa policies should reflect that and continue to allow for people to people contacts in the EU with Russian nationals not linked to the Russian government,” the paper, which has been seen by dpa news agency, continues.
The paper makes the argument for maintaining the current legal framework allowing students, artists, scientists and other key professionals to enter the EU, irrespective of whether they personally face political persecution in Russia.
It warns against comprehensive restrictions on issuing visas and stresses the importance of not alienating future generations of Russians.
In addition, the paper added that a ban could lead to a rise in nationalist and anti-European sentiment in Russia, where citizens tend to rally behind their political leaders when feeling attacked or victimized by what are deemed Russophobic external forces.
The German-French position paper comes in response to an ongoing debate among EU governments about whether Russians should be prevented from travelling to the bloc for leisure purposes while people continue to die in Ukraine as a direct result of the Russian invasion.