Mon, 25 Sep 2023

Spain's take on sanctions enforcement, according to media, is that only direct arrivals require luggage scrutiny under EU rules

The Spanish Tax Agency (AEAT), which is also responsible for the nation's customs controls, has no intention of confiscating the personal possessions of Russian travelers, Russian news agency TASS reports.

Last week, the EU urged member states to scrutinize Russian tourists for possible sanctions avoidance. The initial European Commission guidelines said even items like shampoo and clothing should be subjected to inspection and possible seizure, but it later conceded that personal possessions posed low customs-evasion risks.

Madrid says its officers will not confiscate mobile phones, jewelry and items that Russian travelers bring in luggage, unless they arrive directly from Russia, according to an explanation cited by TASS on Thursday. Seizures will still be possible, however, if issues arise that are not sanctions-related.

Spain has no land border with Russia and no direct flights between Russia and the EU have been available since the early weeks of the conflict in Ukraine. Brussels has restricted commerce with Moscow as part of the US-led economic pressure campaign.

The initial reading of the EU policy, which implied that Russians may even be forced to strip before crossing the border, sparked outrage in the country. Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, has accused the bloc of demonstrating "racism."

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have imposed a ban on Russian-registered cars, after taking a joint decision on how to follow Brussels' directions. Estonian Interior Minister Lauri Laanemetsa has said he favored a crackdown on vehicles with Russian license plates that are already inside his nation.

The EU's interpretation is that "these vehicles should be confiscated and not be allowed out of Europe anymore," he told a news conference on Thursday.

"I wonder why these cars with Russian license plates are driving in Estonia or why someone who lives in Estonia owns a car with a Russian license plate," the minister added.

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