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Sanctions, trade and overall relationship

17 - Visa policies with Russia

Grade: A-
Unity 4/5
Resources 5/5
Strategy 4/5
Impact 3/5
Total 16/20
Scorecard 2015: B+ (15/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (10/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2012: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: C+ (10/20)

For the second consecutive year, EU visa policy towards Russia consisted of visa bans against officials implicated in aggression against Ukraine

The overall dialogue on visa liberalisation between Europe and Russia has been frozen since 2014, and the main developments on visas relate to EU sanctions against Russian officials – which are closely tied to asset freezes. The EU policy of visa bans and asset freezes against Russian officials and entities began during Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. At the end of 2015, some 149 individuals and 37 entities were subject to such measures due to their part in actions that undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine. This includes some individuals from Ukraine – Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk, and Luhansk – but mostly from Russia, including high-level policymakers considered to have been involved in the separation of Crimea and Sevastopol and in the separatist movements in eastern Ukraine.

In fact, most of the people sanctioned probably have little influence over Russian policymaking – which is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a tiny likeminded circle around Putin. At the same time, Russian elites’ frustration with the restrictions is evident, and under certain circumstances this might contribute towards policy change.

The EU would benefit from clearer rules as concerns implementation of sanctions policy. For example, it is not entirely clear whether sanctioned personalities are allowed to attend multilateral meetings. That has resulted in some inconsistencies: Romania allowed sanctioned Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin to visit the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Bucharest in November, but Finland did not allow a Russian delegation headed by Naryshkin to attend a meeting of the OSCE parliamentary assembly in July, earning scathing criticism from Moscow.