EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2015

Sanctions, trade and overall relationship

2 - Visa policies with Russia

Grade: B+
Unity 5/5
Resources 5/5
Outcome 5/10
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2012: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (10/20)

Visa liberalisation with Russia was suspended. The EU used visa bans to punish the officials whom it saw instrumental in aggression against Ukraine. 

The EU’s visa liberalisation with Russia was another policy area that saw a change in direction in 2014. On 17 March the European Council officially suspended visa liberalisation with Russia – which had already run into obstacles in 2013 – and spent the rest of the year imposing visa bans on people whom it saw as being complicit in aggression against Ukraine. The targets formed a diverse group, including thuggish power-holders from Crimea, the members of the Russian parliament’s upper house who authorised the use of force in Ukraine, Russian “volunteers” in Donbas, and business leaders with close links to the Kremlin. The country’s chief anti-Western propagandist, Dmitry Kiselev, was also banned. Altogether, around 130 people have been banned from entering the EU.

If the aim of the visa bans was to influence the Kremlin’s policies, then it probably did not work. Most of the people targeted have no real impact on policymaking. The few who have are unlikely to turn against the president. The wisdom of banning journalists – even if they are journalists in name only – could also be questioned. All in all, the impact of visa bans on the elite’s calculations has been much less significant than the economic sanctions, especially the sectoral ones.

Visa bans are a strong moral statement and, as such, are justified, even if the choice of targets could have been better. Some countries were able to have “friends” removed from the list; Slovakia and Cyprus were less successful in their attempts to protect Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, from being banned.