The heads of government of Finland and Estonia have proposed that the rest of the EU stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. In Marbella 2,800 Russians are registered
There are no Russian oligarchs in Marbella, but there are wealthy Russian businessmen who come and go with their families from Moscow to their second homes on the Spanish coast. This reality collides in the countries of northern Europe, where many citizens consider it intolerable that, while the Russian Army invades Ukraine and causes deaths daily, in addition to the enormous collateral damage that we all suffer in the energy bill, the Russians continue to happily enjoy your vacation, as if nothing happened.
The heads of government of Finland and Estonia, Sanna Marin and Kaja Kallas, have taken a position on the matter and, without expressly citing Spain, point out the need to put an end to this normality. Kallas have decided to open a debate about it. The first has written on her Twitter account: “Stop issuing visas to Russians. Visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right.”
In his opinion, even air travel from Russia should be suspended. “This means that while the Schengen countries issue visas, Russia’s neighbors (Finland, Estonia, Lithuania) bear the burden. It’s time to end Russian tourism. Already!”. His argument is the inconvenience of opening your arms to people who despise Europe and its values. Her Finnish colleague has ruled on her part that “it is not right that Russians can lead a normal life, travel around Europe and enjoy tourism while Russia is waging a brutal war of aggression in Europe.”
Even if the European governments agreed with them on a new sanction against Putin that would mean stopping receiving Russian tourists, there would be certain technical problems that would be difficult to resolve. What would happen, for example, to visas already granted, often for several years? Which visas should be restricted and which ones should not? The Latvian Foreign Minister, who had previously made a similar statement, made it clear that humanitarian visas should not be in question.
8,000 on the Costa del Sol
Finland is a receiving country for Russian tourism, which since the pandemic-related restrictions fell in mid-July, have landed on its beaches on buses leaving from St. Petersburg. This country is also witness to how Finnish airports are then often used to circumvent the European ban on flights from Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is no stranger to this practice either, and recently mentioned in an interview with the Washington Post his desire for a travel ban for Russians. “It is important,” he said, “that the borders be closed, for all Russians, including those who have left their country and are against the war.” The Russians, according to Zelensky, should live in their own world. But the phenomenon seen in Finland is nothing compared to the Costa del Sol, where an intermittent population of 8,000 Russians is estimated.
In Marbella alone, 2,800 are officially registered, although it is public knowledge that the number is much higher because most do not register. There are wealthy Russians, but there are also bricklayers, clerks and hotel workers. Many are businessmen who work in Russia but who keep their wives and children throughout the year in luxurious homes in Marbella where the service staff is usually Ukrainian. Insistent rumors assure that Putin himself has a house in La Zagaleta, but nobody knows that the Russian president has made use of it.
For real purposes, many of them would not be affected by the new sanction, because they are Russians who have been acquiring second nationalities. In addition, Spain directly offers the permanent residence visa to all foreigners who buy a home for an amount greater than 500,000 euros, a practice known in foreign terms as “golden visas” and which is also followed by other European countries.
For most Russians, though, it’s just a symbolic debate, because they can’t afford to travel to Europe anyway. In numerical terms, since the beginning of the year almost 60,000 Russians have applied for tourist visas to Finland. A tourist visa is easier to obtain and does not mean that you will leave your home country forever, or even use it. They often get hold of the document to have the peace of mind of being able to leave their country at any time and save valuable time in times of crisis. At the end of August, the EU foreign ministers want to discuss this matter at their meeting in Prague.