Posts Tagged ‘yekaterinaburg’

June 2013

EU Shouldn’t Reward Russia’s Repression With Visa Deal


In its usual bureaucratic way, the European Union is sleepwalking into a huge blunder in its relations with Russia.

The EU’s regular summit with Russian leaders opened in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg this week. The EU — and Germany, in particular — wants to sign a new visa-facilitation agreement with Russia, the EU’s third-largest trade partner after the U.S. and China, taking an important step toward eventual visa-free travel in Europe.

The EU’s representatives in Yekaterinburg will be negotiating this visa deal on behalf of the Schengen area, a borderless zone in Europe that includes most, but not all, EU nations, plus a few from outside, such as Switzerland and Norway. This will make visas cheaper and easier for many Russians to acquire.
Ominously, though, it also means the EU may be about to free up travel for the roughly 15,000 Russian bureaucrats who hold biometric “service passports.” These people represent the beating heart of President Vladimir Putin’s state and include officials from the Kremlin, government ministries and the feared security forces, which Russians call “the organs.”

Giving these people visa-free travel would reward them and Putin for their increasingly repressive policies. It would be a mistake.

Emerging Dictatorship

Russia is no longer an emerging democracy but an emerging dictatorship since Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 and redefined Russian authoritarianism. The protest movement that arose in response to abuse in the election, which returned Putin to power, has been crushed through arrests, trials, political imprisonment and the potential sentencing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny to a decade behind bars. The space for free speech has been squeezed by a terrifyingly vague new treason law and punitive fines for any protests that the authorities deem illegal.

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