(MENAFN) The European Union is reportedly deliberating a proposal that could curb the free movement of Russian diplomats within states of the Schengen area, marking a potential escalation in the bloc's sanctions against Moscow. The suggestion comes as part of discussions surrounding the European Union's 12th round of sanctions on Russia, with the Czech Republic voicing concerns that the borderless zone facilitates the entry of Russian 'agents' who can evade monitoring.
The Czech Republic, which has raised the issue among European Union member states, proposes a measure that would limit Moscow's diplomatic staff to travel only within their host country, excluding the rest of the Schengen area. Additionally, Prague advocates for the acceptance of only biometric passports, citing their enhanced security features and resilience against forgery or fraudulent use.
The specific concern centers around Russian officials who, under Austrian visas to work at Union Nation agencies in Vienna, can freely visit the Czech Republic and other Schengen states. The Czech authorities argue that the existing Schengen framework complicates the monitoring and control of individuals, including alleged agents of Russia's foreign military intelligence agency, the GRU.
While the debate on this matter is in its early stages, the proposal faces legal complexities, making it uncertain whether the changes advocated by Prague will be incorporated into the sanctions package under discussion. The move highlights the growing unease within the European Union regarding the ease with which Russian diplomats can move across Schengen states, potentially engaging in activities that are of concern to member nations.
The timing of this proposal coincides with heightened tensions between Russia and the European Union, particularly in the aftermath of Russia's military operation in Ukraine. Last year, the United Kingdom's MI6 chief, Richard Moore, disclosed that numerous Russian embassy staff in European countries had been expelled on accusations of being "intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover." As the European Union weighs its response, the potential restrictions on the movement of Russian diplomats underscore the evolving dynamics of diplomatic relations in the region.
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