STA, 5 February 2021 - Several Slovenian MEPs expressed the view on Friday that the EU must insist on equal treatment of all its citizens, as they responded to a report that citizens of five EU countries, including Slovenia, will have to pay more for their UK work visas. Slovenia also called on the European Commission to take action.
The news portal Politico reported today that citizens of Slovenia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and Romania are not eligible to a GBP 55 visa fee reduction enjoyed by nationals of all other EU member states.
MEPs Klemen Grošelj (Renew/LMŠ), Franc Bogovič (SLS/EPP), Romana Tomc (SDS/EPP) and Milan Brglez (S&D/SD) share the view that the EU must insist on equal treatment. They believe that this is an attempt by the UK to undermine the EU's unity.
"The UK is playing a game with which it wants to create a rift between member states," Grošelj said at the MEPs' briefing in Brussels, adding that the UK uses different methods of pressure with different countries. In the case of France, the Netherlands and Belgium, for example, it is using fisheries, he said.
If unequal treatment persists, the MEPs will bring the issue up at the European Parliament, with Brglez saying that MEPs from the five member states could have the matter discussed in parliament.
"This is a touchstone for the unity of the EU, said Tomc, expressing the belief that the solution to this will depend on the EU. "If we give in, this approach will continue in all fields."
Slovenia's Foreign Ministry confirmed that Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Estonia had urged the European Commission to take action. Slovenia is also looking into the possibility of taking action within the European Council.
The UK's list of countries eligible to the fees discount is based on the list of signatories of the 1961 Council of Europe's Social Charter (CESC).
Slovenia ratified the revised 1996 document, which means that like many other countries it did not ratify the relevant Article 18.2 on visa fee discounts. However, Slovenia argues that the UK's exclusion of signatories of the revised version goes against the provisions of the document, the ministry told the STA.
"It is our position that a country is obligated to uphold documents and provisions it has passed, even in relation to countries that ratified a different version of the document and without respect to whether these other countries took on the relevant obligations.
"Moreover, a non-discrimination clause in the preamble to the 1961 document applies to all provisions of the document, including the provisions relevant to visa fees," the Foreign Ministry said.
Politico also points out in its report that several countries which had not signed the 1961 charter were still eligible for the visa fee discount, among them Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Malta and Portugal.