Visa fury

first_imgSix months after Greece and Australia signed an agreement to introduce a Work and Holiday visa for young people to visit and find temporary employment in each others’ countries, the start of the scheme is still way off, and the reason for the hold-up has to be laid squarely at the door of the Greek government.If Poland can start a Work and Holiday visa program with Australia four months after it was signed, why can’t Greece?Neos Kosmos has identified that legislation in Greece to allow the program to start is yet to come before the Greek parliament, and before it does, it needs to jump the not inconsiderable hurdle of being signed by seven ministers, representing foreign affairs, tourism, health, the national economy, labour, education and development.After being signed off at ministerial level, Neos Kosmos understands the bill will pass to the secretariat of the Greek cabinet, who will then brief the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. Only then will it be finally voted on by the Greek Parliament.A simple process it is not, and it is one that now begs the question as to whether the Greek Government has a motive for keeping the reciprocal visa on the shelf.Greece’s Ambassador to Australia His Excellency Mr Haris Dafaranos explained his government’s actions this week, telling Neos Kosmos: “There is a ratification process which is continuing, and we the embassy have asked the competent authorities to expedite the process as soon as possible.”A spokesman for Greece’s Ministry of Tourism followed suit, saying that verification of the agreement was “in process and will take some months.” But while bureaucratic procedures may present a rational explanation, the Greek community in Australia has become increasingly exasperated over the affair, and its frustration has reached fever pitch.While the convoluted workings of the Hellenic Republic’s internal bureaucracy is the prime suspect in the delay, others believe there may be more to the situation than meets the eye, with the problem going beyond a document lying forlorn in the bulging in-tray of a ministerial desk.Despite Prime Minister Antonis Samaras recently talking up Greece’s ability to reduce unemployment next year, last week the OECD reported the country’s unemployment rate will remain around 27 per cent to the end of 2015. Despite “moderate signs of recovery” according to OECD, the rate will remain stuck at close to its highest level since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008.For young Greeks the situation is even worse. For the twelve months to July, the youth unemployment rate in Greece has hovered between 59 per cent and 51 per cent.For some, it’s one reason why the Greek Government might find opening new doors to foreigners, eager to take the few jobs on offer, politically sensitive.An alternative theory lies in Greece’s reticence to encourage a further brain drain, with many young Greeks continuing to look for opportunities abroad.If either view holds any sway, going slow on ratifying the agreement and others like it, might be understandable in the ‘realpolitik’ affecting Greece’s coalition government that holds a narrow majority in the 300-seat parliament.Victorian Federal MP Maria Vamvakinou, who took part in discussions over the visa’s introduction with Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kosta Tsiaras last year, told Neos Kosmos that “given the protracted nature of this visa coming into affect, one can only now question the will of the Greek Government.”“One has to ask, beyond due process, what other reasons might there be for their bureaucracy to stall?” said Ms Vamvakinou.“Australia’s Greek community are frustrated over this issue, and are asking serious questions as to the Greek Government’s commitment to introducing the visa.”President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis, said he was “dismayed and disappointed” that the visa’s introduction could still not be determined.“We had a senior minister here in May who apparently ratified the agreement and we’ve heard absolutely nothing since.“What the situation tells us, is that there is a complete lack of interest by the Greek Government on this issue, an issue so vital to the diaspora in Australia.”Mr Papastergiadis, who was at the helm of GOCMV four years ago when it began lobbying the Australian and Greek governments to initiate the reciprocal visa agreement, said that Greece’s inaction since the agreement’s signing affected the standing of the Greek Government in Australia and globally.“Working Holiday visa agreements have been ratified by Australia and are in force with practically every other European country,” he said.“We will now write to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on this matter to ask him personally to intervene and expedite the agreement.”Meanwhile, an identical work and holiday visa agreement was signed by Australia with Poland on 28 March this year, just six week before Greece’s Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison signed the Greece/Australia agreement in May. Australia’s Work and Holiday visa program with Poland has been up and running since August 1. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more

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