March 24, 2023

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Foreign Minister Lehbib: Belgium does not want complete isolation from the internal Russian population

Foreign Minister Lehbib: Belgium does not want complete isolation from the internal Russian population

The Minister of Foreign Affairs stressed the need for Habib, Wednesday, in Prague before the start of consultations with her European counterparts on the tightening of visa policy towards Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, “Belgium does not want complete isolation from the Russian population.”

“It is important to target the right people, namely those who support this unjust war in Ukraine and those who are trying to evade economic sanctions,” he told Habib. But Belgium does not want “total isolation from the Russian population”. “It is important that Russians who are tired of this dictatorship can freely express their opinions and let us hear a different voice in Europe than the Moscow regime,” the minister said.

In informal consultations in Prague, some member states impose far-reaching bans on entry to Russians. Countries such as Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states have already imposed strict visa restrictions and want other member states to follow suit. If not, Russian tourists can still travel to attractions elsewhere in Europe via their airports. They also find it unacceptable that Russians are on vacation in Europe while the Russian military is at war in Ukraine.

He pointed out to Habib that Belgium has been practically unable to issue tourist visas for some time, after Moscow’s decision to expel a large part of its diplomatic staff. But like Germany and France, Belgium does not support a complete ban on entry for Russians. Our country is ready to consider a further suspension of the agreement with Russia on the issuance of more flexible visas. This would make visa application processing more expensive and complex, with longer waiting times.

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In any case, he stressed to Habib the importance of a “common” European policy towards Moscow. “We must avoid creating a mixture of measures that would allow Russians to do visa shopping,” the minister said.

Read also: Russia warns of the consequences of the European ban on Russian tourists: “The decision cannot be left unanswered”