THE director of the newly formed Department for European Union Citizens in the Balearics, Kate Mentink, will tomorrow officially present the new government-backed initiative set up to provide information and help to the tens of thousands of non-Spanish EU residents living here. Mentink told the Bulletin yesterday that the new department is part of the Balearic Ministry for Immigration and Co-operation but, as opposed to being an institutional and bureaucratic organ, it will provide a direct service to European Union residents. It will be a point of contact for EU residents seeking help and information and act as a bridge between them and the relevant ministry they require guidance or assistance from, Mentink explained.
The main office for the department is in Palma at the Ministry for Immigration and Co-operation and is staffed by a team of multi-lingual experts.
However, Mentink explained that the idea is to have multi-lingual branches inside town halls across the Balearics. We want to create an EU citizen information and help network across the islands and the response has already been very receptive. We have already opened branches in Lluchmajor and Felanitx and Pollensa will be next after a meeting held with the Mayor and local residents on Monday night, Mentink said. Soller is interested as is Capdepera and we are also looking to move into Minorca, where we've had two meetings, and Ibiza. This is the first government initiative of this kind in Spain but is expected to set a precedent.
As required by all government departments, a special working commission has been set up and this includes representatives from each of the Balearic Ministries (health, education, finance etc.) so that staff at the new EU departments have direct contacts they can look to to solve any query or problem. In the New Year, a second commission is to be set up with representatives from each of the associations and organisations, the English Speaking Residents Association (ESRA) or Age Concern for example in the Balearics, invited to attend regular meetings called to help the department learn more about the problems EU citizens living in the Balearics encounter. One or the next phases includes the construction of an information and help web site which will initially be posted in Spanish, English and German with versions in French and other EU-member state languages further down the line, Mentink told the Bulletin. In phase one of its development, the website will focus primarily on the services, information and help we offer, be it someone moving here, having tax advice problems, looking to get married here or place their children in school, but phase two will then feature a full guide to the Balearics' culture, tourism, commerce, gastronomy and so forth, Mentink added. The department which also intends to eventually seek extra funding from the European Union is firmly established and operational.
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