Posts Tagged ‘tourism’

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Italy to open Consulate in Odessa soon

April 2, 2013

A very short and sweet entry today.

Yet another diplomatic mission will soon open in Odessa – this time Italian – which will please the good woman if it has the ability to produce Visas, as Italy is a nation that particularly attracts her for reasons of history, architecture, food and of course fashion.

Very good.  That makes half a dozen Consulates opened in Odessa in as many years and leaves Odessa housing close to 20 diplomatic missions.

Naturally the UK isn’t one of them – not even an Honorary Consul, despite an ever growing and vibrant local diplomatic community – but I have come to expect nothing less.

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International Toursim Bourse – Berlin

March 5, 2013

It’s been a while since I wrote about anything specific to Odessa – and today could be yet another day where I concentrate on the shenanigans within Ukraine or the broader regional realpolitik that effects Ukraine – there is always so much to comment upon when living in a nation stuck between the geopolitical masses of the EU and Russia.

However, I feel obliged to write about something local again – so I will – before undoubtedly returning to the regional chess board within which Ukraine is but a chess piece.

In March the International Tourism Bourse takes place in Berlin.  It boasts 150,00 M2 of exhibition space and attracts over 100,000 tourism trade professionals each year.

Ukraine has had a presence there for a number of years – but this year, not only will Ukraine have its own pitch, but Odessa will have its own separate pitch as well – making it the only Ukrainian region to have one – quite rightly with over 1 million tourists from Germany, Italy, the USA, Russia and France last year – not to mention a sprinkling from other countries as well!

So ponder on that Crimea, Carpathia, Lviv and Kyiv!

Doesn’t that make me sound so very……provincial.  I promise to try and be more erudite tomorrow when I return to the bigger picture.  In the meantime though, if you happen to be in Berlin when the ITB gathering occurs, be certain to have a look at the Odessa pitch!

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EU “Smart Borders” – Easier traveling for Ukrainians?

March 4, 2013

Now, as we all know, Ukrainian Visa-free travel with the EU should be a lot closer to reality than it actually is.  Particularly as this issue has been deliberately kept free of personality/government image/perception politics and kept fully insulated within the technical and legal requirements to facilitate it.  No more and no less.

The simple fact is, Visa-free travel for Ukrainians is not as close to being a reality as it could be because of the inaction of the Ukrainian politicians failing to pass the necessary legislation and fighting over the business interests when it comes to who will actually get the lucrative contracts to  produce biometric passports etc.

In truth very little blame can be attached to the EU over the failure of Ukraine to do what needs to be done to actually make Visa-free travel a reality for its citizenry.  The goal posts are not moving.  It is in fact an open goal free from effects of  playing field shifting political shenanigans.  Failure to score in the gaping goal is completely and utterly the fault of the Ukrainian political elite – who one suspects are on the receiving end of far fewer Visa refusals than the average Ukrainian.  Quite frankly, nobody else is to blame.

However, whilst the population of Ukraine patiently wait for their lackluster and self-centered elite to do what is necessary to remove what is often a very expensive, logistically burdensome, heavily and often overly intrusive bureaucratic process, the European Commission is trying to convince the European Parliament to engage in a “Smart Borders” project to make travel easier for people from “third countries”.

The cost of this project – an estimated Euro 1.1 billion.  In EU speak estimated is equivalent to saying “at a minimum”.

The system is supposed to divide visitors to the EU into two categories.  Regular visitors (RTS) and occasional visitors (EES).

Regular visitors will apply to be registered as such – and if successful will be given some form of smart/swipe card and can simply swipe their way into and out of the EU – like some form of electronic Schengen Visa centrally issued and centrally monitored.

Occasional visitors will rely on their biometric passports – or not in the case of Ukraine which is still to generate its first biometric passport for the reasons I have listed above.

Those with biometric passport will have the details stored for 6 months on entry – unless they have previously overstayed when such details can be retained indefinitely according to the proposal – Privacy activists no doubt will have issues with “indefinitely”.

Further, all information gathered can be “available to” all national police institutions.  Whether they will be legally bound to delete all information they may take that was “available” after 6 months, I suspect, will become another major issue.  In effect they can “obtain” all biometric data of any non-EU member entering the EU from a centrally held data base (until deleted) at any time – and may not have to delete it after 6 months as the central data base will.

Hmmm.

Privacy issues aside, surely there is only one simple question to be asked and answered here.

Will the new system make life significantly easier for the EU nations, easier for travelers, but strike the necessarily right balance against illegal/irregular migration?  At an estimated Euro 1.1 billion (guaranteed to be much more), “significant” is an issue here!

Anyway, if this manages to get past the European Parliament and actually become a reality, one has to suspect it will not become reality for a good 5 years at least – probably longer.

Will Ukraine have produced a biometric passport by then?

If it has, then many of the legislative (and business interests) that are preventing it actually making Visa-free a reality for its citizenry will have already been overcome.  The technical monitoring phase would be well underway.  Visa-free imminent, in effect.

So whilst the benefits for the EU from this “smart borders” project seem rather limited from the outset (whether that third nation is Ukraine or not) – and are replete with “privacy issues” – the benefits for Ukraine, as long as the politicians get their self-centred fingers out of their incredibly idle arses, should theoretically be zero given the time frames.

……..And yet, I write this in the full expectation of having to register my wife on the Regular Travelers Programme sometime after 2018 – which will have limited benefit to the EU, limited benefit for her and underline just how feckless the Ukrainian political elite across the entire political spectrum actually is.

Not that any of the above will help much with the UK – Due to my wife regularly swapping her eyeballs, altering her fingerprints frequently, and changing the bone structure of her face as often as the bedding, she will necessarily have to continue to haul herself to Kyiv to be “re-biometricised” every time she needs a new UK Visa.

Rather than be offered a postal service option, having already held 4 UK Visas and thus the UK having her biometrics that many times already – we will continue with the idea she is some form of shape-shifter.

Although to be honest, when the next one expires we may never go again – the UK really isn’t that interesting compared to the rest of Europe – and Schengen Visas are easy to get without leaving Odessa should the “Smart Borders” project be rejected and the old systems remain in place.

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Slovakia – the Ukrainian tourist’s best friend?

February 5, 2013

Well I was going to write something quite heavy relating to the forthcoming visit of Stefan Fule to Ukraine on 7th February, bit it will have to wait – if it ever gets written at all now.

Instead, we will have a look at recent statements coming from the Slovakian diplomatic missions in Ukraine.

“If a person already had a visa and used it within the law, that is if he had a tourist visa and really visited the stated place and returned on time, we can give him a visa for five years.” 

If the applicant for a visa has never been to a country of the Schengen area, he will receive a visa for a period of six months to two years, and if he has already had a Schengen visa, he can get a multiple-entry visa for two to five years.

“Slovak diplomats issued 6,000 visas to Ukrainians in January, or almost two times more than in December. They can be issued in Uzhgorod or Kyiv.” – Janka Burianova Slovak Consular General Ukraine

Blimey – 5 year Schengen Visas available from your nearest Slovak diplomatic mission in Ukraine!  (As long as you travel into the Schengen area and leave it via Slovakia).

There will be queues outside their mission in Kyiv and the airports of Bratislava and Kosice may well become a transit hub (after a short stay in Slovakia as per the Schengen rules), for a lot of Ukrainians wanting to visit nations that would otherwise turn down their Visa applications – particularly such long term Visas!

It certainly won’t do Slovak tourism any harm – even if many Ukrainian visitors are only going to stay 24/48 hours in Slovakia before heading onwards into deepest darkest Schengen territory.

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Biometric Passports and ID Cards – Ukraine

October 14, 2012

Having finally got around to the core issue of Stage 1 relating to the road map on Visa-free travel as per the document from the EU, the RADA has passed the necessary laws for biometric passports and identified the company that will produce them.

Just how technically good the new law is remains to be seen – amendments to poorly written laws are not exactly unusual with any Ukrainian government.

The company is EDAPS.  That is about all that can be said about the company as nobody outside very select circles  knows who actually owns it, despite it winning numerous government contracts over the years under various governments.  All that is definitely known is that those who own it are no longer living in Ukraine and its parliamentary representative (and lobbying point) is MP Hrytsak.

Obviously a transparent tender and procurement model was deemed unnecessary – again!

Anyway, the point of this post is not to raise further procurement shenanigans, quite simply as if I do there is really nowhere to go with it without knowing who actually owns EDAPS – and I don’t.

Nevertheless, new biometric passports are required by the EU for the Visa-free road map will be produced from 1 January 2013.  The cost will be about $55 which considering the cost of a UK biometric passport is very small indeed – especially when considering how many Ukrainian citizens will want an international passport compared to how many UK citizens want and have them.  There is therefore an obvious question about the profitability for EDAPS with less demand from less citizens for less money, or is the UK simply ripping off the UK citizen?

If the money isn’t going to be in the international passports, where are the profits going to come from?

Also in the new law is a requirement for ID Cards to replace the internal passports of Ukrainians as they expire.  The law also anticipates using said card for driving licenses, sailor ID cards, social security cards – and most importantly as far as I am concerned, those with migrant cards (Permanent Residency).

Now the internal cards will not cost the Ukrainian people directly as the international passport does.  The new cards will be paid for by the government at a projected fee of $8 per person.

Rough mathematics would suggest that EDAPS will therefore get approximately $320 million from Ukraine over the next 10 years or so from internal government funded ID cards – Now that then becomes a far more attractive proposition.

So the question then is are the new internal biometric ID cards necessary?

Well, many EU nations have national ID Cards.  In some nations they must be carried compulsorily and in others not.  I come from an EU nation where national ID cards simply don’t exist at all.

Thus there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the EU nations and EU norms.

However, there does exist the Schengen ID Card system of nationally produced, EU approved ID cards for internal movement within the Schengen area without the need for a nationally issued international passport.  If Ukraine ever entered the Schengen agreement, government paid for national ID cards would possibly allow for Schengen wide travel without the need for a Ukrainian to buy an international passport.

There are also quite obvious advantages and disadvantages to a “one card does all” system of identification which I won’t bother to list – the point being if Ukraine is changing the ID system, should it consider whether an internal ID system is even appropriate anymore whether by internal passport or ID card?

However, most important is the issue of biometric passports, as it is a step in the right direction as far as the EU Visa-free road map is concerned – and also a necessary one for government egos considering Moldova has moved to Stage 2 of its Visa-free EU road map, whilst Ukraine remains mired in Stage 1 issues – and coming behind the butt of all Ukrainian jokes (Moldova) will never do for the egos of the elite!

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Off to the UK in November

September 25, 2012

Well, your author has to visit the UK in November.  As much as I would like to avoid it, there is no avoiding it.

The upside is that after 10 days in England I will be reminded of just why I emigrated in the first place.  The downside is now looking for flights to and from Blighty and explaining to the good woman that getting the cheapest flights is not a good idea!

Do play the video – so very funny and so very true!

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A taste of Azerbaijan – Apsheron Restaurant, Odessa

September 23, 2012

As summer began in Odessa, not that far from me, a restaurant called Apsheron opened at Fontanskaya Doroga 20/3.  It is owned and run by a good citizen of Azerbaijan.

As is always the case with Odessa in summer, all restaurants are busy, and Apsheron was packed to the rafters from the moment of opening.  As such this is no inferred recommendation and the really good restaurants are those that are busy all year round.

Thus, despite passing it at least twice daily, only yesterday, on an overcast Saturday afternoon did I venture in.

At 3pm on a dull Saturday afternoon there were about 30 people inside the restaurant and about 20 sat outside on the patio.  I was quite surprised considering this restaurant, despite being on a busy street and situated in a fairly affluent area, is a long way from the city centre.

A closer look at the clientèle displayed what appeared to be a 50/50 mix of Slavs and those from the Stans/Jans.  Always encouraging when there are a decent amount of those ethnically able to tell good from bad when it comes to their national cuisine, sat eating.

I have to say the food was as good as any served in Baku, even at the most fancy and expensive restaurants there.

To say it was good would be an understatement.  It was somewhere between great and sublime.

The menu is in Russian but in small brown writing underneath each dish, it is also in English, though you may well miss that such is the bold Cyrillic Russian text.

For those who live in, or spend a lot of time in Odessa, discount cards are available for those who spend UAH 5000.  Before you fall from your chair and say “UAH 5000!!!” – You can simply keep the receipts until they cumulatively reach that figure.  Admittedly that may take you some time, as my total bill for 2 courses and coffee came to UAH 201.  Indeed I have a way to go to eat my way to a discount card it has to be said.

Anyway, for those ever passing along Fontanskaya Doroga, I absolutely and unequivocally recommend Aspheron if you are feeling a little hungry.

That is especially so if you are heading to visit me – as it means I won’t have to cook.  In fact, if you are coming to see me, then come here first and we will head back to Aspheron – where I will keep the receipt to add to my collection in an attempt to reach the UAH 5000 mark and get my discount card!

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