EU member states have been debating whether to limit travel for Russian diplomats after Czechia complained that potential spies are avoiding monitoring in the Schengen area, which has no border checks.
Source: Financial Times (FT), as reported by European Pravda
Details: EU governments have expelled hundreds of Russian diplomats since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, accusing them of being intelligence agents.
However, countries still issue visas to Russian diplomats, granting them access to the Schengen area and the right to travel freely in 24 of the 27 EU member states, as well as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
Last week, Prague issued a document outlining ideas for preventing this as part of negotiations on the 12th package of EU sanctions against Russia. The package is yet to be approved by member states.
Czechia expelled over 70 Russians last year in response to Russia's war against Ukraine and Russia's possible involvement in the 2014 attack on an ammunition storage point that killed two people.
The country now seeks to require Russian diplomats to obtain visas and residence permits that only allow travel within the host country, not the rest of the Schengen area.
Czechia also believes that the EU should accept only biometric passports, as they are harder to forge.
A particular issue Prague brought up concerns officials obtaining Austrian visas to work for UN agencies in Vienna and then travelling to Czechia or other countries.
"There are agents of [Russia’s military intelligence service – FT] GRU and other services arriving in Czech territory. It is very complicated in Schengen to control this," a diplomat said.
These discussions are still at an early stage. The challenging legal matters surrounding them indicate that any changes are unlikely to be included in the package currently under consideration.
Background: On 15 November, EU Diplomacy Chief Josep Borrell, jointly with the European Commission, presented member states with a proposal for a 12th package of sanctions against Russia.
Earlier, media reports indicated that Vienna had become the "spy capital" of Europe due to the peculiarities of local legislation and the large staff of the Russian embassy there.