MEPs threaten to block visa-free travel for Russian officials

Financial Times

Senior members of the European parliament are threatening to block a measure allowing some Russian civil servants visa-free travel to the EU unless the union in turn blacklists Russian officials linked to human-rights abuses.

On Tuesday 48 MEPs signed an open letter to demand that Brussels implement its own version of the US “Magnitsky list”, signed into law in December by President Barack Obama, which has sent US-Russia relations to their worst point in years.

The ban could be implemented only if the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, formally made it a condition of accepting visa-free travel for Russian civil servants, something the Kremlin has long sought from Brussels. So far the commission is “considering” such a condition, according to someone familiar with the situation, but could be forced to impose it if parliament had the votes to block the visa-free regime.

“Of course, if parliament makes it a condition for its consent, then at the end of the day we will need parliament on board,” the person said.

However, the commission appears to be preparing a compromise that stops short of the parliamentarians’ demands, according to an official in Brussels. Instead of a strict travel ban on certain Russian officials, it would consider restricting their access to the visa waiver.

An official in Brussels said the blacklisted officials would still be allowed to enter the EU but they would have to go through the usual process of applying for a Schengen visa and would not benefit from the visa waiver.

Many European leaders have resisted adopting something similar to the Magnitsky list for fear of reprisals by Russia, which is a significant trading partner of the EU and supplies much of the continent’s hydrocarbon imports.

However, proponents of the ban say it is necessary to send a strong message to Russia that human rights abuses will not be tolerated.

“Our concern is that such a move [visa free travel] would allow officials involved in gross human rights abuses to travel freely to the EU,” said the letter. “Under current circumstances we will be unable to support any visa facilitation agreements with Russia and will advocate the Parliament to refuse its consent, unless the Council adopts an EU ‘Magnitsky law’ as proposed in the Parliament’s recommendation of October 2012.”

Among the signatories are some of the parliament’s most senior members, including Elmar Brok, a veteran of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and head of the parliament’s Liberal party group.

The Magnitsky list targets a group of Russian officials accused of having a role in the detention without trial of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer, who died in prison because of medical attention in 2009, after he testified against high ranking police officials accused of corruption.

The US version of the Magnitsky list also includes some figures who apparently had no role in the case of Mr Magnitsky but are thought to be linked to the torture and murder of political opponents. Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Russian region of Chechnya, has publicly announced that he is on the list, though some of the names, including his, have not been published by the US.

The European Parliament has already showed that it can muster the votes in favour of the travel ban. In October 2012 it passed a recommendation calling for targeted sanctions against individuals involved in the death of Magnitsky, as well as others linked to serious violations of human rights and corruption in Russia.

“At the moment this is the initiative of the European parliament. It is not something that the commission is discussing with the Russian side yet, but it’s something the commission is considering in its talks with the member states,” said a person familiar with the matter.

One observer said some commissioners were resisting implementing a Magnitsky law and made an analogy to the US, where the state department and the White House tried to dissuade Congress from imposing the ban.
“In the US, it was Congress who did the job, and here again the parliament is taking the lead on this,” said one Brussels official.

“For the time being the commission is discussing the conditions for allowing the service passports to be exempted from visa requirements. The negotiations are ongoing with the Russians. If the parliament wants to add an extra layer then we will have to consult with the member states and look at it.”
He said that discussions between the commission and the Kremlin were also focusing on what categories and how many Russian civil servants will be awarded such visa-free travel. займ на карту без отказов круглосуточно онлайн займы https://www.zp-pdl.com https://www.zp-pdl.com hairy woman

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2 Responses to “MEPs threaten to block visa-free travel for Russian officials”

  1. Dawn says:

    When it’s the big government bosses that are ruthless mob syndicate bosses and the subordinates required to follow “lock step and key” the exact orders of their superiors no matter how illegal, the answer becomes no Russian civil servant should be granted visa-free status. The subordinates were hired because they would follow all orders, including unseemly ones. The EU would be served best by shutting its borders to Russians.
    Visa-free status is for the most trustworthy. Russian government officials need to earn trust, and instead specialize in fomenting distrust.

  2. Dawn says:

    3 minutes ago I was again being shot at by an EMT wave. It’s become commonplace. EMT wave guns aren’t legal in the US for civilian use. Learn from the US ‘mistake. Let no Russians inside EU borders.

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