Visa Directive proposal – the EU Council forgot the volunteers

By | February 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm | Beyond AEGEE | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A few days ago, the Council of the European Union published its proposal for “a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, pupil exchange, remunerated and unremunerated training, voluntary service and au pairing”, resulting from the meeting in Brussels on the last 9th of December.

 

The Council of the European Union, who was under the Italian Presidency back in December, made a further step in the legislative process which will lead to an update Directive on visa issues. In fact, back in March 2013, the European Commission (EC) published a Proposal for revising the existing Directive 2014/114/EC (dated December 2004) on the conditions of admission of third-country nationals for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service, and Directive 2005/71/EC (Dating October 2005) on the conditions of admission of third-country nationals for the purposes of scientific research. The aim was to improve the legal framework applicable to third-country nationals, including also the remunerated trainees and au pair.

In February 2014, the European Parliament (EP) voted its first reading, serving as a mandate for the negotiations with the Council.

Despite its title, and the premises in the same text (point (2) of the Proposal: “[The Directive] should therefore simplify and streamline the existing provisions for the different groups”), this proposal was embarrassingly inadequate compared to the EC and the EP proposals.

In fact, already in the Article 1 (a) and in the Article 2 (1), the Directive makes a clear distinction between third-country nationals who apply to be admitted on the territory of a Member State for the purpose of research and study – for which the Directive shall compulsory apply –  and the ones applying in the frame of “pupil exchange scheme or educational project, unremunerated training or voluntary service”, for which “Member States may also decide to apply” (the Directive, ndr).

This reduction of the scope of the Directive, compared to the one proposed by the EC, is of huge concern. In fact, if we bring it to our association, it may mean that non-EU members may have burdens in participating in events taking place in all those countries who won’t extend the scope of the Directive to others than students.

The second biggest concern regards the fee for applying for a visa: not only is a fee foreseen, but, in its document,the Council does not foresee any limitation, but rather gives a suggestion for it not to be “disproportionate or excessive”. Again, the limit of the Council is clear: we all know how difficult, demanding and expensive it is to apply for a visa (if we didn’t apply directly, we for sure know stories from our friends in the Network), and this document proceeds in the exact opposite way than the Erasmus+ legal framework, where the learning mobility of individuals is one of the main actions to pursue the Programe objectives.

The list doesn’t stop unfortunately. Reading further in the document is clearly stated that “The competent authorities of the Member State concerned shall adopt a decision […] as soon as possible but no later than 90 days of the complete application being lodged”. Can you imagine applying for an Agora three months in advance to make sure to get the visa on time? Moreover, this provision extends considerably the “60 days” EC proposal, and even more the “30 days” framework suggested by the European Parliament.

The last remarkable point comes regarding the visa holders for studying and research considering to spend a period of time (up to 6 months) in another EU Country: despite the already long procedure spent to apply for a visa, the third-countries nationals may incur in a renew procedure for the second Member State, who is allowed to start further verification on documentation and purpose of stay.

Luckily, this is not the final version of the Directive. According to the Lisbon Treaty, this document has to go through the Parliament, who has the right not to validate it as such, but to propose modifications that will need to be then approved by the Council.

Of course, this doesn’t mean at all that there is an easy path ahead. Unfortunately, this document shares the fear to further concede facilitation for mobility in Europe. Let’s not forget that the Schengen agreement has been quoted and pointed out as one of the main factors allowing free movement to terrorists, and the happenings in Ukraine, Turkey, France, Libya (and the list may unfortunately go on) are misused and misreported to create a growing terror mood in Europe which is disruptive and mining the concept of United Europe.

That’s why AEGEE, together with the European Youth Forum and in all the possible platforms, is and has to continue campaigning for Youth Rights in Europe. An official statement has been presented, and a Policy Paper on Youth Mobility will be presented at the next Agora Asturias to be ratified.

Youth rights are at a stake, and we, European citizens, need to do as much as we can (and a bit more) to make sure we build up the Europe we want to live in.

You can read AEGEE-Europe Reaction to the Council Proposal for the Revision of the Visa Directive here.

Written by Alfredo Sellitti, AEGEE-Salerno, Policy Officer on Youth Mobility


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