05. 09. 2013
The European Commission (EC) has launched proceedings EU Pilot before court action against the Czech Republic over Visapoint, the Foreign Ministry's system for foreigners' registration, on the initiative of the Czech Ombudsman.
The EC checks Visapoint on the initiative of the Czech Ombudsman Pavel Varvarovsky who claims the system is inoperable.
In 2012 the Ombudsman observed, in certain countries (especially Vietnam, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan), difficulties pertaining to the operation of the VISAPOINT system, which requires foreign nationals in certain countries to register in order to be able to apply for a visa for stays in the Czech Republic longer than 90 days and for a long-term/permanent residence permit. The Ombudsman considers particularly alarming the long-term impossibility to register in order to file an application for a long-term stay for the purpose of family reunification and/or studies, as these types of stay represent a transposition of EU Directives, namely Council Directive 2003/86/EC of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification, and Council Directive 2004/114/EC of 13 December 2004 on the conditions of admission of third-country nationals for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service, respectively. Directive 2003/86/EC explicitly stipulates a right to family reunification, subject to certain conditions, as was also confirmed by the case-law of the then European Court of Justice in case C-540/03 of European Parliament v. Council of the European Union dated 26 June 2006, and by the EU Commission in its “Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 8 October 2008 on the application of Directive 2003/86/EC”, whereby the Commission also added that the provision of Article 8 (1) of Directive 2003/86/EC “precludes the introduction of the notion of reception capacity as a condition in national law.” Therefore, in the Defender's view, in cases where the Czech Republic in effect makes it impossible for foreign nationals to file an application for a long-term/permanent residence permit, and provided such cases are linked to EU law, it violates its obligations arising for it from EU law. As problems with the functionality of the VISAPOINT system were not resolved even after repeated correspondence and personal meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior, the Ombudsman decided, in July 2012, to ask the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström to provide her viewpoint. The Ombudsman also discussed the problems of the VISAPOINT system at a regular press conference in September 2012.
The EC has started the EU Pilot proceedings against the Czech Republic that was asked to comment on the issue within ten weeks. The EC expects to receive an announcement of remedial steps being taken or a stand, based on arguments according to which EU law that is binding on the Czech Republic has not been breached. The EC will assess the stand, and if it dismisses it, it will launch proceedings over breach of EU law.
The ombudsman has been repeatedly alerting the Foreign Ministry since 2011 that Visapoint does not operate and does not make registration possible. "The unfulfillable condition denies foreigners the right to file the application, that is the fundamental right to just proceedings," says Varvarovsky.