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Flight bans to visas – what does the EU’s Ukraine response mean for Spain?

Over the weekend the EU agreed to a further package of measures in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. From flight bans to entry rules and financial sanctions, here's how these will apply to those who are in Spain or want to come here.

Flight bans to visas – what does the EU’s Ukraine response mean for Spain?
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy give a joint press statement on further measures to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the European Commission in Brussels on February 27, 2022. (Photo by Stephanie LECOCQ / POOL / AFP)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced further measures on Sunday, adding more pressure on Russia on top of previous economic sanctions in response to their invasion of Ukraine.

Her full statement did not go into much detail on exactly how the new rules will apply. 

It’s likely that there will be further clarifications in the days to come, but here’s what we know so far;

Visa rules

EU member states will discuss on Monday using a little-known rule called the Temporary Protection Directive to allow Ukrainians to stay within the Bloc for up to a year without a visa. 

Since 2017, Ukrainians have benefited from the 90-day rule, which means they can spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU or Schengen zone without needing a visa.

“We need to be prepared for day 91,” EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Sunday.

This change would not affect entry to the Bloc – the 90-day rule means that Ukrainians can already enter without having to show a visa – but once here they would not be required to make an application for asylum.

Ursula von der Leyen said: “We welcome with open arms those Ukrainians who have to flee from Putin’s bombs and I am proud of the warm welcome that Europeans have given them.

“We are mobilising every effort and every euro to support our Eastern Member States – to host and take care of these refugees.”

Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Sunday that his administration is fully committed to welcoming Ukrainian refugees to Spain.

For years children from Chernobyl have spent summers and Christmases with families in Spain thanks to NGO schemes that also exist for minors from Western Sahara. Many of these same Spanish families are now calling for a safe travel corridor to bring the children to Spain so they can house them permanently or until the conflict ends.  

Flight ban

Russian-owned, Russian-controlled or Russian-registered planes are now barred from all EU airspace, including the airspace over Spain. They will not be able to take off or land anywhere in the EU, or fly over EU airspace. This includes commercial airlines and private jets.

READ MORE: Spain joins allies in closing airspace to Russian planes

All flight connections between Spain and the Ukraine have been cancelled, and Ukraine has also closed its airspace.

There is, however, no travel ban on Russia, so people can still travel between Spain and Russia on either a non-Russian airline or by road, rail or sea. 

Spain’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said it recommended that travellers delay non-essential travel to Russia and asked Spanish residents in Russia to stay informed about the conflict in Ukraine.

Spain’s Covid-related travel rules are still in place meaning that as non-EU nationals tourists from Russia must be fully vaccinated in order to travel to Spain, although Spain does not recognise the Sputnik vaccine.  

 

SWIFT/Russian central bank sanctions

If you have any financial dealings with organisations or individuals in Russia, these could become difficult in the coming days. 

The EU has agreed to disconnect Russia from the Swift network, which is a communications network used for making international money transfers, and von der Leyen also announced sanctions on Russia’s central bank 

Shipping ban 

If you have recently ordered anything from Russia you may find there are delivery issues even if your payment goes through without problems. 

Economic sanctions mean that certain cargo from Russia can be seized or blocked from entering the EU. 

Spain has also proposed that European ports be completely closed to Russian ships as well as for companies with capital in the eastern superpower.

Russia Today ban

The EU has also banned Russian state media outlets including Russia Today (RT), Sputnik and their subsidiaries. Exactly how this will work is not yet clear, with Von der Leyen announcing that the EU is “developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe”.

Both RT and Sputnik have Spanish-language versions.

Asset seizures

The Spanish government hasn’t published stats on the Russian oligarchs that live or have assets in Spain, nor have they announced any sanctions aimed at them as the United Kingdom and the United States have done.

However, the EU has proposed sanctions on Russia’s wealthiest tycoons so it may be only a matter of days before ‘oligarcas’ in Spain feel the pinch.  

Among the most notable assets that Russian millionaires own in Spain are mega-yachts docked in Barcelona, Marbella and other upmarket coastal locations, as well thousands of mansions in exclusive locations. 

Roman Abramovich and Vladimir Putin himself, as well as several other oligarchs, are reported to have ordered their exclusive yachts to be moved from the Spanish ports where they were docked in recent days due to fears that they will soon be seized by Spanish police.

Russian and Chinese nationals make up the bulk of foreign luxury buyers in Spain, as the acquisition of a home worth €500,000+ gives them access to EU residency through the so-called golden visa scheme.

READ ALSO: How much influence does Russia have over Spain?

Price rises

Previously announced economic sanctions on Russia are likely to lead to price rises throughout Europe, particularly for oil, gas and petrol. 

A meeting of EU energy ministers on Monday is going to look at ways of controlling price rises. 

READ ALSO: How Spain could be impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Thanks to the fact that Spain gets most of its natural gas from Algeria, the country is less reliant than other EU countries on Russian gas, but it does import a large amount of maize and other grain from Ukraine.

In February 2022, an already high inflation rate reached 7.4 percent in Spain, the highest level in 33 years. This, combined with the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, will impact the price of food, non-alcoholic drinks and fuel in particular, economists say.

Eurovision

And if you’re a Eurovision fan, don’t expect to see a Russian entry at the contest in May, the European Broadcasting Commission has announced that Russia is barred from the 2022 event.

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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Britons, Americans and other non-EU/Schengen travellers who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from Covid-19 will not be able to visit Spain for tourism for at least another month, Spanish authorities have confirmed.

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

The Spanish government has again extended temporary restrictions for non-essential travel (including tourism) from most third countries for another month, until June 15th 2022.

That means that non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and who haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the illness in the past six months cannot go on holiday to Spain during the next month. 

Therefore, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, Indian or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third country nationals would be allowed into Spain in May.

But in the end, Saturday May 14th’s state bulletin confirmed that Spain will keep the same measures in place for another 31 days, stating that they “will eventually be modified to respond to a change of circumstances or to new recommendations in the context of the European Union”.

Spain’s ban on unvaccinated non-EU travellers is arguably the last major Covid-19 restriction in place in the country, and other EU countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland are allowing unvaccinated tourists in.

This latest announcement by the Spanish government marks the umpteenth extension to non-essential travel from outside of the EU/Schengen area over the past two years of the pandemic, the previous one was due to expire on May 15th. 

But perhaps this extension is the most surprising, as the Spanish health ministry has modified its rulebook to treat Covid-19 like the flu and the country wants to recover the tourism numbers it had pre-pandemic.

The ban affects unvaccinated British tourists in particular, as the UK is still the biggest tourism market for Spain, but Britons’ non-EU status means they have to follow the same Covid-19 travel rules as other third-country nationals.

Vaccinated or recovered third-country travellers

Those who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 more than two weeks prior to travel to Spain will need to show a valid vaccination certificate with an EMA or WHO approved vaccine.

If their initial vaccination treatment was completed more than 9 months ago (270 days), they’ll need to show they’ve had a Covid-19 booster shot. 

As for non-EU/Schengen travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they will need to show a recovery certificate to prove this

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, recovery certificates accepted as valid are those “issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or RAT, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling”, as well as being issued by the relevant authorities.

Exceptions

In early February, Spanish authorities also decided to start allowing unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen teenagers aged 12 to 17 to visit Spain for tourism if they provided a negative PCR.

Spain continues to have a small list of low-risk third countries whose travellers visiting Spain for non-essential reasons can enter without having to present proof of Covid-19 testing, recovery or vaccination. 

This is updated weekly and can be checked here by clicking on the PDF under “risk and high risk countries/areas”. 

READ ALSO: Can I travel to my second home in Spain if I’m not vaccinated?

If you’re not vaccinated or recovered, the exceptions for travel to Spain from third countries that fall under the non-essential travel restrictions are:

  • You are a resident in the EU or Schengen country.
  • You have a visa for a long duration stay in an EU or Schengen country.
  • You work in transport, such as airline staff or are in a maritime profession.
  • You work in diplomatic, consular, international organisations, military or civil protection or are a member of a humanitarian organisation.
  • You have a student visa for a country in the EU or Schengen zone.
  • You are a highly qualified worker or athlete whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely.
  • You are travelling for duly accredited imperative family reasons.
  • You are allowed entry due to force majeure or on humanitarian grounds.
  • And as mentioned earlier in the article, if you have a vaccination certificate that Spain’s Ministry of Health recognises, as well as for any accompanying minors (unless they’re under 12 years of age).

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?

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