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Article 5 Directive 2004/38/EC – Being a “secret shopper” in Ukraine – Well done Greece, the only one to get it right!

July 20, 2013

Elsewhere in cyberspace issues have arisen over Article 5 of Directive 2004/38/EC amongst ex-patriots/immigrants in Ukraine relating to their Ukrainian families and their freedom to travel within the Schengen area of the EU.

In short, this Article provides that direct family members of EU citizens must be granted Schengen Visas free of charge and upon production of passports and marriage/birth certificates/irrefutable evidence of direct family ties – and no more.

Yet no EU individual had managed to achieve this feat, all EU national consulates and embassies demanding more documentation than is required to provide – such as plane tickets or hotel bookings and some financial evidence, employment history and more – in complete and flagrant violation of the above directive.

This is before we consider the recently implemented EU-Ukraine Visa Facilitation Agreement – which states:

The simplified procedure is also available to citizens who travel to the EU for medical treatment as well as to spouses, children (including adopted) parents (including custodians), grandparents and grandchildren, close relatives who intend to visit the EU citizens or citizens of Ukraine legally residing in the territory of the EU member states.

Of course to many ex-patriots, the Euro 35 Visa fee is no great financial burden.  The hassles and costs of any other documentation requested is more painful in time than money also.

Therefore one could suggest that our Ukrainian family members being treated like every other Ukrainian Schengen Visa applicant is no big deal – Well, you could suggest that if you care not of principle, do not care that the EU – so keen on lecturing Ukraine on adherence to rules – fails to insure the implementation of its own rules  via its Member States on Ukrainian soil.

Tails were recounted of the minimum documents required being OK but a fee charged, or free visa issuance but demands of flight or hotel booking (to insure family members were traveling with their EU spouses/parents) etc – but no tales of successful and complete compliance per the letter of the Directive by any Embassy or Consulate.

“EU countries are obliged to grant your third country family members every facility to obtain the necessary visas. These should be issued free of charge as soon as possible and on the basis of an accelerated procedure. The Commission considers that delays of more than four weeks are not reasonable.
EU countries may only require entry visas for your family members; they may not require family or residence visas.

The right of entry of your third country family members is derived from their family ties with you, an EU citizen. All the consular officials can ask for is their passport and a document establishing their family ties with you, such as a marriage or birth certificate and proof of dependence, where applicable. Your family members cannot be asked to present documents such as travel tickets, employment certificate, pay slips, bank statements, proof of accommodation and means of subsistence or a medical certificate.”

Is that no clear to even the most retarded?

Well it is my wife’s birthday at the end of the month – so prompted by this systemic failure to adhere to this Directive – we decided to apply for a free Schengen Visa under this Directive at various randomly selected consulates in Odessa.

The very first problem is the Ukrainian employees dealing with Visa applications at national consulates.  None knew of this Directive and none would read it and the provisions therein – even when presented with it in writing in English and in Russian – Quite simply if it deviated from the general rules every Ukrainian is subjected to regarding what documents must be submitted, then no Visa application would be processed.  (In such cases I would suggest other EU citizens pursuing this, email directly the relevant Consular Generals, Ambassadors and EU SOVIT teams – who should – hopefully –  put matters right.)

Those that caved to my persistence and made appointments with consular staff did so extremely unwillingly.  Those that did not refused to give their full names to be mentioned in formal complaints to the Consulate Generals/Ambassadors and national SOLVIT teams for which they work.

Upon seeing some consular staff – the demands for additional documentation kept coming – despite their awareness of Article 5 of this Directive – which I helpfully provided a copy of.

All in all, a spectacular fail by every national consulate I visited – except one.

The Greek Consulate was the only one to comply with this EU Directive, demanding only the documents they were allowed to demand and issuing the Visa for free.

Further, the Greek Consulate in Odessa also embraced the recently actioned EU-Ukraine Visa Facilitation Agreement, and did not issue a single entry 6 month Visa, but a multi-entry Greek Schengen Visa for the maximum amount of years possible under the agreement.

The Visa, I will add was issued within 23 hours of the application – or about 8 standard consular working hours.  Impossible not to be impressed!

So, Consulate General Mr Antonios Haziroglou, Mr Spyridon Mokas (the Attache who dealt with my wife) and the Greek consular team in Odessa – Bravo!  – The only ones to get this right and fully entering into the spirit of EU-Ukrainian Visa Facilitation Agreement as well.

For those Embassies and Consulates that read this blog within Ukraine (and I know there are a few), for those EU politicians that follow me on twitter and will read this via a link, for the hundreds of EU diplomats I am linked to on LinkedIn and will read this entry on my feed, for the 80 or so Ukrainian politicians that are “friends” on Facebook and will also see this via the feed etc – perhaps some “in-house” awareness of this issue would be in order, as there will soon be numerous Visa applications under Article 5 by EU citizens with Ukrainian families.

The next EU citizens living in Ukraine willing to act as “secret shoppers” are already lining up elsewhere in cyberspace to have a go in various cities at random consulates around Ukraine.  Ask yourselves whether you want your embassies/consulates to be named and shamed  on numerous websites and forums, not to mention regular referrals to the EC SOLVIT offices – or lauded as is the case for the Greek Consulate in Odessa – as this ball is just about to begin to roll.

All of this does leave me wondering just why the UK, land of my birth, insists on a 10 page Visa application form, a small rain forest in supporting documentation each and every time (which they no longer return as they used to do), plus up to a month to turn around a Visa for my wife – who has already held 5 UK Visas!

Now to prepare for the beautiful Hellenic Island of Crete!

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