THE LATEST amendment to the Act on Reporting Citizens’ Residencies, requiring people travelling abroad for more than three months to report their stays to the government under the threat of punishment, launched a wave of criticism among citizens. They immediately began updating their statuses about their whereabouts on social networks to ridicule the change, and flooded the Interior Ministry, the author of the changes, with emails. More than 2,200 people also signed a petition, initiated by a group of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) MPs and members of the non-parliamentary Civic Conservative Party (OKS), in which they called on the president not to sign the bill into law.
The controversial change will not become effective, as parliament accepted the proposal of President Ivan Gašparovič to omit the measure which changed the original wording of the amendment from “will report” to “is obliged to report”, the SITA newswire reported on June 19.
Gašparovič vetoed the law on June 8, saying that he did not agree with the explanation that the original legislation does not literally oblige citizens to inform the relevant authorities about their intention to leave. According to the president, regarding the other measures in the legislation, the new wording would be confusing.
The amendment was passed by the ruling Smer party after a heated debate in parliament on May 16, which ended with opposition MPs walking out of the chamber before the vote. The ministry, however, explained that the state needs to possess up-to-date information on its citizens, stressing that if the ministry knows the whereabouts of citizens and legal residents, it will be able to inform them about possible seizures of their property, inheritance or other important, official matters.
“It is by no means a repressive tool for the state against its citizens,” the ministry wrote in an official statement, adding that the measure is not new and the obligation to report extended stays abroad has been part of the law since 1998.
Moreover, in response to the public outrage, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák said that the state will not automatically fine people who do not report their stays abroad. The fine will be imposed only in the event that one’s failure to report an extended stay abroad results in legal damages, he said. The maximum fine will stand at €33.
Register will reduce bureaucracy
Another part of the amendment establishes the Registry of Natural Persons, which is scheduled to launch on January 1, 2014. It will collect the personal data of citizens and inhabitants of the country residing in and outside Slovakia’s territory, in an effort to reduce red tape.
“Citizens will submit their data to the public authority only once, and through the Registry of Natural Persons the data will go also to other information systems of the public administration,” the Interior Ministry explained, as quoted by SITA.
This registry will also contain the data of foreigners who have applied for residence in Slovakia, foreigners who were granted asylum in the country, as well as foreigners without residence on Slovakia’s territory, but who are recorded in the country’s database in accordance with the law on the residence of foreigners.
With press reports
24. Jun 2013 at 0:00 | Radka Minarechová