Brussels demands rewording of visa guidelines

5th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 August 2005, BRUSSELS/BERLIN - The European Commission demanded Thursday a rewording of German visa guidelines that have been at the heart of a political storm buffeting German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. But the commission said Germany was not breaking European Union rules on the issue of the short-term visas, which allow visitors to spend up to three months in the 15 so-called Schengen states of Europe. Centre-right political opponents have accused Greens party stalwart Fischer and his aides of e

5 August 2005

BRUSSELS/BERLIN - The European Commission demanded Thursday a rewording of German visa guidelines that have been at the heart of a political storm buffeting German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

But the commission said Germany was not breaking European Union rules on the issue of the short-term visas, which allow visitors to spend up to three months in the 15 so-called Schengen states of Europe.

Centre-right political opponents have accused Greens party stalwart Fischer and his aides of easing visa checks in 2000, allowing an unknown number of eastern Europeans to enter the Schengen states and work illegally, practise prostitution or form crime gangs.

A parliamentary inquiry in Berlin has yet to report back its findings.

An E.U. review that has lasted several months charged Thursday that the 2000 German guidelines had breached the European Union's general consular instructions, but said changes in January 2004 eliminated the irregularities.

"It would however be useful to add one or two clarifications to the wording of the October 26, 2004 guidelines," a letter from Franco Frattini, E.U. commissioner for justice, said. Berlin had to be more precise about what happened when a visa applicant lied on a form.
In Berlin, the Foreign Office insisted the guidelines of 2000 had been legal, but said it was willing to discuss further changes with the E.U. Commission and the other Schengen states.

A unified Schengen short-term visa allows non-E.U. citizens to move freely for three months within Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

However each of those nations has some leeway to vary the rules. One country might want to ease rules for sun-seeking tourists, another might want to help grandparents visiting children abroad and a third nation might encourage flying visits by wealthy investors.

Germany's visa rules today also differ from one nationality to the next. A Foreign Office spokesperson said the current requirements at each consulate were posted on its website.

Eckart von Klaeden, the ranking Christian Democrat in the Berlin parliamentary inquiry, said Brussels' had issued a "stern rebuke".

The inquiry has been told that for a time, Ukrainians could obtain tourist visas through travel agents without calling at a consulate.

German Christian Democrats have called for less leeway in the issue of visas. Frattini has said he will issue a new version of the 40-page, E.U. consular instructions next year.

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article