A Finns Party candidate in the upcoming European Parliament elections has said he wants to scrap the Schengen visa agreement, and introduce visa-free travel with Russia instead.
Olli Kotro made the comments in an interview with a pro-Kremlin media outlet over the weekend, and said he didn’t think Finland should be allied with the West, but should remain neutral instead.
With its foreign, security, economic and social policies firmly aligned with the European Union for decades, Finland has not been ‘neutral’ for a long time. The country has been a member of the EU 1995; and a NATO ‘Partner for Peace’ for more than 25 years.
Former Finnish diplomat Kontro said in his interview with Eurasia Daily that cooperation with NATO “will give conflicting signals and will not improve the security situation of the country”.
And he has ideas for more cooperation between the two countries, in spite of EU-wide sanctions imposed after invaded Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
“Finland must withdraw from the Schengen Treaty and create a special visa-free zone with Russia in the style of the American ESTA [electronic entry permit] system” he told the outlet.
Kotro said that he wants to create a joint Finnish-Russian university to get bilingual diplomas; and thinks Finland should operate a special foreign policy for Russia, separate from the rest of the EU. He cited Italy and Hungary as countries forging their own relationships with Moscow.
“Finland is ready for dialogue with Russia without instructions from Brussels” he said.
On Monday however, in the face of widespread criticism of his interview, Kotro rolled back on some of the comments.
He told MTV Uutiset that he meant visa-free travel could be extended to a small number of people who make regular border crossings, in order to facilitate trade.
In April, Kotro represented his party at the inaugural meeting of right wing European political parties trying to form a Euro Parliament grouping, along with far right AfD from Germany and Italy’s anti-immigrant League.