In response to a wave of complaints from German and French residents in Ibiza, the European Commission has sent Spain two warnings that it has infringed the free movement of EU citizens and members of their families. The Commission has issued written warnings to Spain over the issue of “disproportionate and discriminatory” fines to EU citizens for either failing to apply for or renew their residency permits and for demanding that non-community members of EU community families wishing to settle in Spain obtain a visa. If Spain fails to provide the Commission with a satisfactory reply within the space of two months, the issue will be handed over to the European Union. Belgium has also been rapped over its failure to comply with the free movement of people legislation, in particular for ordering the expulsion of EU citizens who have failed to comply with all the requisites. With regards to Spain, in the first case the Commission wants the Spanish government to give a guarantee that it will cease to hand down discriminatory and disproportionate fines out to EU citizens who fail to either apply for or renew their residency permit. There has been a flood of complaints from EU citizens in Ibiza that the fines are far superior to the fines handed out to Spaniards for either the similar offence in other EU countries or for failure to renew their national identification cards. A European Commission source said that EU states have the right to fine people for failing to apply for or renew their residency permit, but the fines had not to be discriminatory. In Spain, fines can reach as high as 3.005 euros (500.000 pesetas) and the Commission believes the figure is far too high and not in line with the rest of the European Union member states. The second warning from the Commission is about Spain's demand that non community members married to a European Union citizen must obtain a residence visa and that the visa must be obtained before coming to live in Spain - a process which involves huge amounts of paper work. For example, the Commission has received complaints from a German married to an American living in Spain and a Dutchman married to a Colombian. The EU community demands that normal entry visas are applied for by non EU citizens, even if they are married to EU citizens “but these are free and normally issued automatically,” the Commission source said yesterday. Once the non EU citizen is installed in a member state, then he or she is required to apply for a residence permit and provide all the relevant family documentation, not “residence visas” and are not required prior to travelling to an EU nation, the source added. Spain, currently President of the European Union, now has a period of two months to appease the European Commission.


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