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Visa facilitation agreement: “Beer for members of trade unions only?!”

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Igor Botan / January 30, 2008
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The Agreement on the facilitation of the issuance of visasRO entered into force on January 1, 2008. The signing of the agreement is part of key achievements in bilateral relations and process of implementation of the European Union — Moldova Action Plan (EUMAP). The agreement explains the following important matters:

Of course, the facilities introduced under the agreement contrast very much on background of the exemption of E.U. citizens from Moldovan visas for a 90-day term, starting January 1, 2007. This contrast reveals the statuses of the signatory parties. Indeed, the agreement with Moldova repeats with certain exceptions the provisions of similar agreements signed by the E.U. with other Western Balkan and East European countries.

The essence of facilities consists in establishing a 10-day term following the application to let E.U. consulates make a decision on visa issuance. The term may be reduced to two days for a justified emergency, but it may be also extended to 30 days for individual cases, when an in-depth consideration of the application is required. The agreement allows the issuance of E.U. multi-visas and stipulates a 35-euro single visa issuance fee. Under Article 6, representatives of the 15 privileged categories may be exempted from this fee[1].

Visa applicants were confused the first two weeks after the enforcement of this agreement. On one hand, the Common Application Centre in the Hungarian Embassy restarted its work in line with this agreement and adequately informed the visa applicants. On the other hand, the consulates of a number of E.U. member states did not operate any change: they did not display the new norms and additional requirements for visa applicants; beneficiaries of facilities paid the visa fee. The last remark reveals that the facilities are optionally awarded, though the agreement seems to stipulate another thing.

The enforcement of the agreement revealed a series of inconsistencies of this document in general. In this regard, the omission concerning representatives of civil society organisations who are part of the groups of beneficiaries of facilities on one hand and on another hand are omitted from the list of those exempted from the visa tax seems to be blameless (Article 6). Instead, inconsistencies concerning businesspersons and journalists cannot be ignored. Thus, shall businessmen and representatives of business organisations submit a “written request by a legal entity or host society […] approved by the State Registration Chamber (SRC) of Moldova”?! Some questions appear in this context:

These questions are not a simple animadvert about. The agreement has already vexed businessmen and SRC functionaries just after the enactment.

Requirements obliging journalists “a certificate or other document issued by a professional organisation proving that the person concerned is a qualified journalist and a document issued by his/her employer stating that the purpose of the of the journey is to carry out journalistic work” also raises confusion and questions, in particular:

Indeed, these provisions rather encourage the corruption in journalism-related environments. These puzzles evoke excepts from the piecework by known Soviet satirists Ilf and Petrov, who derided in “The Golden Calf” the Soviet socialisation practices like “serving beer to members of trade unions only.” Perhaps we shall not be surprised if we will see soon slogans such as “Facilitated E.U. Visas for Unionist Journalists Only!”

Many Moldovans would easily and ironically overpass these inconsistencies and inconveniencies if the previous practices affecting the dignity were not remedied after the enforcement of this agreement. Thus, visa applicants must keep providing labour certificates and evidence that they pay for their invoices for public services. Although these requirements are not part of the agreement, they are in force inclusively for citizens who travelled much to the E.U. and whose documents have been considered and scanned tens of times. The need of estimating their subsistence capacity probably justifies these humilities. But the additional requirements suggest Moldovans how to further overpass obstacles. Those planning to stay illegally in the E.U. may “cultivate their biography” and “make order” in their labour papers, paying for public services. In consequence, those willing to penetrate the E.U. area at all costs accomplish their plans, while decent citizens are hurt that E.U. consular services demand invoices for some services and labour papers, which are nothing but atavisms introduced in the ‘1930th for the control on citizens by totalitarian regimes. In general, it is difficult to understand the need of submitting labour papers, in particular, when the Moldovan legislation stipulates as follows:

In this context, it would be fair for Moldovan citizens to be at least informed regarding requirements on submission of labour papers for visa issuance:

The invoked requirements encourage the corrupt potential without argued answers to these questions, suggesting formal engagements. In addition, these requirements may affect the security of personal data and even the private life of visa applicants.

The contrast between treatment towards common Moldovans and authorities completes these inconsistencies and humiliating procedures. Thus, the agreement (Article 10) exempts from visas the ruling elite which hold diplomatic passports[3], and this fact reveals that the name of the “Agreement on the facilitation of the issuance of visas” is unjustified. Authorities are freed of visas, rather than awarded visa facilities. The agreement would justify its name if it admitted that the average (arithmetical mean) of benefices enjoyed by ruling elites and humilities faced by common citizens is estimated. If so, the dignity of a holder of Moldovan diplomatic passport exceeds the dignity of approximately 10,000 common citizens. The comparison is not bizarre at all, if recalling that Moldovan ruling class representatives seek damages worth millions of lei for an alleged libel when they sue journalists.

In conclusion, there is a sad truth — to be a citizen of Moldova means to automatically generate suspicions that one wants to leave the country in order to illegally stay in the E.U. Unfortunately the behaviour of many fellows permanently fuels these suspicions. This way, the agreement has an educative role for Moldovans, recommending them: to become decent people; to establish relations in the E.U. area in order to be able to receive invitations; to find well-paid jobs at home, so that to pay at least for communal services; to become professionals; to join trade unions, etc. Shortly and metaphorically, those unworthy of “beer” will have to “accept the kvass,” as the known character said. Once they learn all these things, Moldovans could dare to use the famous exclamation “To See Paris and To Die!” Up to then, we have to ask kindly European officials and members of the Joint Committee to start applying the bona fide principle. In particular, they should apply this principle for former Moldovan diplomats who had a status of ambassadors and former ministers and even ex-prime ministers. Of course, the humilities faced by some of them last year hit Moldova as, somehow, a European state entity.

  1. a) Close relatives who visit Moldovan citizens, legal residents of member states; b) members of public administrations and national and regional parliaments, constitutional and supreme courts; c) members of official delegates participating in events held in member states; d) schoolchildren, students of universities and post-university institutions and teachers accompanying them during study or professional training trips; e) disabled people and their companions; f) persons who submitted documents proving the need of the trip for humanitarian purposes; g) participants in international sport competitions; h) participants in scientific, cultural and artistic events; i) participants in official exchange programmes organised by friend cities and other localities; j) journalists; k) children under 18 and maintained children under 21; l) retirees; m) motorists providing international cargo and passenger carriage services in member states; n) staff of trains travelling to member states; o) members of liberal professions participating in international exhibitions etc., held in member states.
  2. When requested to provide a copy or a labour certificate, the salary earner must clearly motivate the employer and even submit a special demand registered by functionaries in charge with personnel record.
  3. Under Article 2(3) of Law 273/09.11.94 concerning identity acts from national passport system, diplomatic passports are issued to the following persons: a) President of the Republic of Moldova; b) Chairman of the Parliament; c) members of the Parliament; d) Prime minister and members of the Government; e) wives (husbands) of the President of Moldova, Chairman of the Parliament, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs; f) presidential advisors for foreign policy and foreign economic affairs; g) Chairman and judges of the Constitutional Court, chairman and deputy chairpersons of the Supreme Court of Justice, Prosecutor-General, chairperson of the Chamber of Auditors, Bishop of Chisinau and All Moldova; h) head of the Moldovan Academy of Sciences, Governor of the National Bank of Moldova, chairperson of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia, chairperson of the Central Electoral Commission, head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry; i) diplomatic personnel of the central apparatus of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; j) diplomatic and consular personnel of Moldovan diplomatic missions to other countries; k) diplomatic personnel of Moldovan missions to international organisations; l) diplomatic envoys; m) members of families of functionaries indicated in j) and k) who reside together during the diplomatic service; n) former Presidents of Moldova, former Chairpersons of the Parliament, former Prime Ministers; o) Moldovan extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassadors; p) Moldovan judges to the European Court of Human Rights, as well as their spouses and minor children who reside together during this mandate; r) permanent respresentative of the Moldovan Government (governmental agent) to the European Court of Human Rights.
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