Archive for July 12th, 2013

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E-Gov & E-diplomacy – E-xemplorary service – or not? EU v UK

July 12, 2013

Ho Humm.

As is clear to many readers historically, I am quite proud of my nation – most of the time – as any patriotic and solid citizen of any nation is.

I have a particular admiration for the FCO – not least because I know quite a few people who have served within it currently in various nations acting as Charge D’Affaires, Ambassadors and Consulate Generals or now retired.  That is notwithstanding numerous “boiler room diplomats” behind the scenes I bump into now and again.

Each and every one I know personally are quality people to a man/woman – and every single one of them has always responded to any email I have sent them within 24 hours (unless the standard FCO auto-response “away” message comes back to me offering redirection to another individual in cases of emergency).  Likewise I make a point of responding to anything they send to me equally as swiftly.

Very good – but –

There are times when I do not want to bother people I know personally with a general inquiry, despite the fact I know they will respond even though the general inquiry is well below their station in life and position within the government  machinery.

And so it has come to pass that my passport needs renewal.

I have navigated my way around the .Gov.UK website, downloaded all the forms I need to renew and pay for the new passport and am then faced with having to travel to Kyiv and do “the necessary” in person – fair enough.

However, whilst the website tells me quite clearly the working days and hours the UK Consulate Kyiv is open, I really do not like Kyiv or having to go there – so I want to know if I need an appointment – or not.  The website does not say.  To go and be turned away would annoy me to the point of an exceptionally critical blog entry – and this blog is read by many of those within the FCO I know and would not be best pleased should this occur.

So I decided to ask my mundane question about the requirement for an appointment – or not – via the general inquiries email address for the Kyiv Consulate.

Arrrrrghhh!

ukembinf@gmail.com – What?  gmail?  Why is it not an FCO or .Gov.UK email address?  Something that would give me confidence that somebody professional is at the other end?

All my professional life, any professional e-correspondence was done via professional “entity name.com” or “.co.uk” email addresses – and all private/personal/juvenile e-correspondence done via email addresses such a gmail, yahoo or hotmail etc.

Perhaps it is me?  Perhaps I am peculiar in keeping the professional separate from the personal and wanting to portray a professional image all the way down to using a corporate.com or .co.uk email address for professional activity?

Anyway, having briefly pondered why such an unprofessional email address appears, I proceeded to ask the question some days ago, as to whether I need an appointment at the UK Consulate Kyiv – or not – when it comes to renewing my passport.  I will no doubt have to go through the process of being “biometricised” this time, and would be happily surprised if I can just stroll into the Consulate at any normal working hour of any working day and expect it to be done – pronto.  Ergo why I ask the question I ask.

Needless to say, the unprofessional appearance of the gmail email address has been matched by the fact I still await a reply to such a very basic and mundane question that takes no more than 30 seconds to answer.

Meanwhile on the EU front, clarification was sought relating Article 5 of Directive 2004 38/EC which states my Ukrainian wife is entitled to a free EU Visa upon request, supported only by her passport and our marriage certificate – because she is married to an “EU citizen”.

This email inquiry was sent the same day as that to my inquiry to my own Consulate in Kyiv – to a formal looking generic EC email address I might add!

Surprise, surprise, a response within hours, not only confirming that she is entitled to a free Visa because she is married to an EU citizen but also stating that if any EU nation demands more documentation that her passport and our marriage certificate then the issue should be passed to SOLVIT – an EU entity that will inform relevant diplomatic mission that they are duty bound to issue the passport free and with no further documents required.

Generic and formal looking EU email inquiry 1 – 0 Generic and unprofessional looking email inquiry to the UK – and still waiting for the answer!

As an aside, yes one is left to ponder just why, when my wife is married to a UK for many years – and by default EU citizen – she needs only show her passport and marriage certificate to me to gain a free Visa and visit any Schengen nations she likes – at yet to visit the UK, the EU nation from which she is married to a citizen thereof – she must complete a 10 page application, with supporting documentation such as the production proof of funds, proof of ownership of property, proof of marriage, reason for visiting the UK, proof of employment, declare family members in the UK, previous Visa details and copies thereof etc etc – in short a small rain forest of documentation – each and every time she applies for a UK Visa.

She has now had 4 (ranging from 6 months to 2 years in validity).  There is no way to short-cut the system with a “no change” declaration each time she applies – typical.

She is very, very unlikely to want to overstay in the UK when she can overstay on Mediterranean coasts of Italy or Spain – and despite the fairly high hurdles required for her to live in the UK – she/we can meet every one of them with ease, so she can simply apply for the immigration Visa should she temporarily lose control of her senses and want to live in Blighty permanently.

Immigration risk she is not – economy booster by way of shop until she drops (including property shopping) – she is!

Once again – EU 1 – 0 UK when it comes to (e-)bureaucracy.

Thus far, the EU is 2 – 0 up when it comes to the speed at which generic E-Gov answers inquiries, reduction of bureaucracy and repeated unnecessary invasion of privacy.

If I add 1 to the EU score for each day I wait for a response from ukembinf@gmail.com – I suspect, if not a cricket score, the possibility a rugby score in the offing!

Perhaps if I gather together enough Brits together for a Haka I may scare the awful ukembinf@gmail.com into a response to keep it to a rugby score – or perhaps we will indeed reach a cricket score?

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