It’s time to move again

Just as he was about to take the stairs up to his apartment on the second floor, leaving the old-fashioned and small elevator for those who might need it more, the concierge stopped him: “Un momento, I have something for you.” This was nothing unusual, for he received so many packages of books that the concierge already should have known his name by heart, although he still referred to the address label each time he read it out when handing over the mail: “Andreas Moser”. In fact, Moser carried one of those books in his hand at that moment. In accordance with his personal preference which valued books far higher than any form of human interaction, it had been his companion during a very late lunch.

But this time, it was not another package bearing the name of the American online retailer whom small bookshops and anti-globalization activists loved to hate. I was a large but thin cardboard envelope in glaring yellow, bearing the logo of a courier service. Feigning that he had expected such a letter, Moser nodded “grazie”, although his lawyer’s mind had already appreciated the fact that the concierge had signed for it and that he might therefore deny ever having received the letter if it involved a lawsuit or something of a similarly annoying quality.

Once in his apartment, he opened the envelope only after taking off his shoes, washing his hands and pouring a glass of Coke. Moser didn’t appreciate being sent mail by courier. If people thought that their business was urgent, it rarely was. Nor was it usually important, and he loved pointing out the difference between these two parameters.

One sheet of paper, A4, no letterhead, no date, no signature. Printed in a typeface which was too large, like one would do in a film to allow viewers to read the kidnappers’ request for ransom over the addressee’s shoulder. But Moser had neither children (luckily) nor a cat (sadly), so no ransom could possibly be squeezed out of his cold heart or his meager bank account.

Without extending the courtesy of even a hint of salutation, the letter began:

You will be surprised to read from us after such a long time,

“What, are Nigerian scammers sending letters by courier now?” Moser wondered, frowning and beginning to get angry about this waste of time.

but we have been following your stay in Italy.

A stalker? A fan? Unlikely. It began to give him an idea about whom the letter might originate from.

We will come to Europe soon and would be happy to meet with you again.

That sounded like a job! A smile hushed across his face, not so much at the prospect of having to work, but because Moser had already been wondering when he would be remembered and someone would recognize that his talents might be put to some good use in what was turning into Cold War II. After he had been arrested and tortured during a mission in Iran five years ago, he had been retired and was only kept on board for the occasional small job.

We have booked a cruise on the Black Sea

Moser began to appreciate this rather creative way of coding a message, wondering whose idea it had been. The company must have finally hired someone who read books from time to time.

and we are going to fly to Romania tomorrow, where we will spend a few days before embarking on the cruise.

Romania sounded good. Moser had never been there, but the thought of steep mountains and deep forests had enough of a positive connotation. And real bread, potatoes and sausages after one year of pizza and pasta.

Tomorrow however did not sound good. These Americans always thought that going from one European country to the next was as easy as going from Washington to Chicago.

If we will like it there, we are thinking of staying in Eastern Europe over the winter. You know that John has family connections dating many generations back and he would like to see if he can do some research about his ancestors.

So this was a long-term assignment and it would involve old-school espionage instead of brute force. Moser, who had turned 39 this summer, appreciated that not so much because it was appropriate for his age but because it suited his intellectual and analytical talent.

It seems that to him it’s also a bit of an emotional matter to connect with his roots.

Moser was lost about this sentence. Try as he might, he couldn’t make out what it alluded to. Puzzled, he continued to read:

We mailed this letter by courier because we have had bad experiences with the Italian mail recently.

Meaning that he should be careful to avoid the attention of the AISI, the Italian domestic intelligence agency. If it wasn’t too late already.

That’s all for now; we have to run to be at the theater at 9:45 p.m.

No good-bye, no kind regards, nothing. Moser looked at his watch. It was 17:25. He had more than four hours to catch a flight. Plenty of time, yet the adrenalin, or whatever the appropriate chemical substance was, kicked in, signalling the cherished combination of excitement and complete focus. He poured himself another glass of Coke and very much craved a piece of chocolate.

Packing his bag took around 20 minutes. Moser programmed his laptop in a way that all data would be erased if someone tried to access it, just in case he would run into trouble at the airport. Travelling by plane, there was no point in taking his gun. He hid it in one of the hollowed-out books in the living room. Sadly, books were the perfect hiding place because nobody else ever touched them.

After the warning in the letter, leaving the house through the front door was not an option. From too many of the windows on the opposite side of Via Niccolò Pizzoli he could easily be watched. He remembered the car bomb which had been planted in front of his house shortly after he had moved to Bari and which he had narrowly survived. If he was to be followed, Moser would of course detect the tail after turning a few corners, but even better was not having any tail at all.

The house had a basement, but the door to it was always locked and Moser had never checked it out before (“getting complacent” he scolded himself). There was a large courtyard which served as a parking lot for the tenants of the houses by whom it was fully surrounded and for the office workers in this relatively central part of Bari. The parking lot had two exits, both of them loosely guarded by members of a family who either had a legitimate business of who had simply one day put up their chairs and began to charge money. Such was the entrepreneurial spirit in Italy. If only the tax collectors could catch up with it.

One of the exits went into Via Pizzoli, so it had to be the other one, exiting around the corner into Via Perrone, opposite from the Church of Santa Maria del Rosario which doubled as an alarm clock every morning at 07:15. The bus stop to the airport was only one block away, in Via Crispi.

The apartment had several balconies to the courtyard, and there was a patio just one floor down. No real obstacle. Moser let his backpack drop, climbed across the guard rail, turned around and lowered himself, landing elegantly like a cat (or so he thought). A quick move across the patio. Nobody had seen or heard him over the blaring sound of the TV sets, blasting the usual dumb stuff into Italian living rooms. Almost no difference between Berlusconi’s and the other channels anymore. Another guard rail, the same procedure, and Moser had reached the ground floor. It was full of cars, scooters, motorbikes, bicycles, neatly parked, almost packed like sardines. The parking attendants were worth their money. He had to assume that they knew their customers, so he couldn’t simply take a bicycle and speed off.

He had an idea: because the parking attendants parked the cars, these were probably unlocked and the keys were kept by them, to be handed over to the owners when they returned. 17:54. Soon the first office workers would show up and drive home, to a restaurant or to meet their lover. But which car would leave first, or at least soon? The cars were parked in three rows and he guessed, or rather hoped, that the parking attendants parked the cars of those leaving first in the front row. Moser ignored the small cars, Fiat 500 and such, and set his eyes on a red Alfa Romeo 156 in the first row. He snuck up to it from behind and tried the hatch to the rear trunk. It opened. There was plenty of space, so this was as good a choice as any other.

He climbed into the trunk, folded a piece of paper twice, held it over the locking mechanism and pulled the lid close from inside. This way, he could open the lid again by pushing his legs against it. Now, he just had to hope that the owner of the car wouldn’t want to put his or her groceries into the trunk before driving off. Quantum of Solace car chaseIt didn’t matter where they were going actually, because Moser just wanted to get away unseen and the plan was to get out of the car after a few minutes. Lastly, he hoped that the ride would be smoother than the one in the opening sequence of Quantum of Solace.

In the darkness and the silence, Moser dozed off. Dreams of winding mountain roads, dark bread with sausages, forests with green, yellow and red foliage, goulash, rivers with the water twirling around boulders, communist-era apartment blocks, snow, castles, old trains formed a kaleidoscopic image of the country that would be his new home. The bang of a car door awakened him. One bang meant only a driver, no passenger. And no child, thank God. He checked the fluorescent dial of his watch. 18:21. Plenty of time.

Moser didn’t want to get the GPS out of his backpack to remain ready to escape any second. He could not sense whether the car was going left, right or straight, possibly distracted by the driver who had started shouting into his mobile phone almost before turning the ignition key. Hopefully Romanians would be a bit quieter than Italians.

It was slow traffic, stop and go. Moser waited until 18:26 and decided to get out the next time the car stopped. Opening the hatch slightly, he saw the car behind. Only a driver, female, who would probably not get out of the car, even if she spotted him. The driver might honk, but then honking was so regular here, that it wouldn’t draw any reaction, except more honking and some shouting. Backpack already over both his shoulders, Moser lifted the lid open, jumped out and walked away briskly, but without any apparent hurry. He had no idea where he was, nor where he was going, but it was important to appear normal. Turn the next corner, speed up, turn another corner, keep walking straight, cross a busy road, walk into a side road, turn left or right and walk in the direction where you came from. Anyone following him would have lost him by now.

Then he recognized the area from the signs indicating the courthouse and the cemetery. They had gone west. Moser set out to find one of the two train stations in the area, Bari Crispi or Bari Brigata, from where he knew there was a direct train to the airport about every half hour. He got to the airport at 18:52, where he purchased an overpriced piece of chocolate cake and a Romanian dictionary at the bookstore, wondering why the price of everything at airports was marked up, except for newspapers and books. The dictionary wasn’t very helpful either because the reference language was Italian, and about two thirds of the words looked the same in either language.

Concentrating on the cake instead, already hoping to find a good Sachertorte at least in the parts of Romania which had once belonged to the Austrian empire, Moser realized – rather late – that the letter he had received this afternoon had not provided for the possibility of him declining this mission.

Was this a trap? If he got stopped and interrogated, he didn’t really have any good explanation for travelling to Romania. There was no cover story, no back-up plan, nothing. He tried to remember the one sentence in the letter which he had been unable to make sense of, when he noticed that he had left the piece of paper in the car. “Damn it!” And the airport cake wasn’t very good either.

Posted in Italy, James Bond, Romania, Travel | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Easily Confused (42) Convoys

Cool convoy:


Suspicious convoy:

convoy Ukraine

Terrifying convoy:

convoy ISIS

Posted in Films, Russia, Syria | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Did you notice the Irony? (18) Leonardo DiCaprio

The guy who died because his ship hit an iceberg resurfaces 17 years later to urge the UN General Assembly to adopt policies that would stop the melting of icebergs.

leonardo_dicaprio_un(auf Deutsch)

Posted in Environment, Films | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Easily Confused (41) Rubik’s Cube

You can spend years playing with differently colored fields without getting one step closer to a solution. When you are just about to solve the puzzle, somebody will come by and destroy years of work within minutes: the Rubik’s Cube.


You can spend years playing with differently colored fields without getting one step closer to a solution. When you are just about to solve the puzzle, somebody will come by and destroy years of work within minutes: the Middle East

Karte-Nahost1(auf Deutsch)

Posted in Maps, Politics | Tagged , | 4 Comments

10 FAQ on Freedom of Movement in the EU

As part of my very popular series of legal FAQ, I now address a subject which can often help to resolve immigration cases which seem hopeless under national immigration law: the right to freedom of movement within the EU.

I have also posted FAQ on divorce in Germanychild custody law in Germanyinheritance law in Germany, German citizenship lawinternational child abduction, constitutional complaints in Germany and on working with me as your lawyer. You can see the full list of FAQ on my website.

1. What is the right to freedom of movement within the European Union?

Broadly speaking, the citizen of any EU member state can move to any other EU member state without a visa, a residence permit or any other formality being required. It’s as easy, and in some cases easier than, a move within a country’s borders.

2. Is this what people call Schengen?

No, these are two completely different things. Schengen is a system for the abolishment of physical borders and for a single tourist visa for 26 countries. The UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Cyprus are not part of Schengen (but with the exception of the UK and Ireland will be sooner or later) but are bound by the EU freedom of movement rules. Even more confusingly, some countries which are not in the EU are part of Schengen and the freedom of movement rules also extend to them (Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland). The situation in Switzerland is even more complicated, but please ask a Swiss lawyer about that.

Schengen and EU 2014

3. Are you allowed to work or study in any other EU country?

Yes,  freedom of movement not only means that you can travel, but you can settle in any EU country. You can take up employment, you can study, you can set up a business, you can retire. You can pretty much do anything that you can do in your home country, with exceptions on some government jobs which may be restricted to nationals of that country and on voting in national elections.

4. Is there a limit as to how long you can stay in another EU country?

You are always allowed up to three months in any EU country without any further conditions. For stays beyond three months, you must be exercising one of your EU Treaty rights, i.e. being in employment, running a business, studying or being self-sufficient. This is a gross simplification, but as long as you don’t apply for welfare, you are safe. In reality, the three-month rule is not enforced, also because you could leave the country and come back the next day or you can always say that you just arrived yesterday because your passport doesn’t get stamped if you cross the border as an EU citizen. – From my personal experience, nobody cares. I have been living in six different EU countries and never had any kind of registration, paperwork, nothing. It was never a problem.

5. How does this help me as a non-EU citizen?

Now we’re getting to the interesting part! EC directive 2004/38 extends the freedom of movement rights to family members of EU citizens. That means that if you are Afghan/Brazilian/Chinese or anything else and your spouse is an EU citizen, then you can live with them in the EU if they are exercising their freedom of movement rights, i.e. if they are not living in their country of citizenship.

6. That’s great! How do I get this EU freedom of movement visa?

It gets even better: you don’t need any visa. Freedom of movement is a right which you have by virtue of law and it does not depend on any EU member state issuing a visa or a residence permit. When travelling or crossing borders together with your EU spouse, you just need to bring your marriage certificate and you’ll be able to enter the EU or cross borders within the EU.

If you want, you can however apply for a residence card which will show that you have the right to reside in that particular country. This is NO legal requirement and you have the right to stay BEFORE you apply or obtain such a residence card. The practical use of the card is for employers (who often don’t understand immigration law) and to show to border guards (dito) and airline staff (dito).

7. Wait. I heard that some countries have restrictions for the immigration of spouses.

Yes, Germany for example requires a minimum knowledge of German, the UK requires a certain income level. But these national rules do NOT apply to other EU citizens and their spouses because national law cannot overrule EU law. This leads to the paradoxical situation that it is easier to migrate to an EU country if you are married to the citizen of another country than to a citizen of that country. For example: If you are a non-EU citizen and you get married to a German and want to move to Germany, you will need to prove minimum language skills in German and you will need a visa; but if you marry a French person who lives in Germany, you can move to Germany without a visa and without any language skills because you fall under EU law.

8. I have the feeling that you were about to suggest a trick.

Of course! Thanks to the freedom of movement in the EU and the fact that there are no more border controls between most countries, you can bypass national immigration laws. Let’s say we have a German guy who gets married to a woman from Bangladesh, but she cannot get a German visa. Easy: the German husband moves 5 km across the border to France, Poland or any other neighbouring EU country, and the wife can join him right away. Officially they will live in France, Poland etc. but as there are no border controls, nobody will know how much time they spend where.

9. You keep talking about spouses, but does this also relate to other family members?

Yes, it does. Other groups of family members who may benefit from the freedom of movement in the EU are: same-sex partners, unmarried long-term partners, children, dependent parents, including dependent children and parents of the non-EU partner. You may notice that this is the perfect loophole for circumventing strict national laws against family reunion.

10. And all these rules are the same in every EU country, so it doesn’t matter if my spouse is from Germany or from Croatia?

No. That would be too simple. EC Directive 2004/38 needs to be transposed into national law and this leads to slightly different results in each of the 28 EU member states. A particular problem arises for same-sex partners because some EU member states haven’t recognized such partnerships (yet).

Usually, the country of citizenship of your spouse or sponsor is not as relevant as the country in which you wish to settle. For Croatian citizens however (and thus for non-EU family members of Croatian citizens), some countries (for example Germany) have opted to use a phasing-in which limits access to the labour market before July 2015. There are however no limits on moving as a student or on setting up a business or being self-employed, so that these limits can be easily circumvented.

Because this is a very complicated area of the law, I ask you to restrict your questions in the comment section to general questions which might be of interest to others. I won’t be able to solve specific, complicated cases without looking at the details and not without charging. Please feel free to contact me and be as precise as possible in the description of your case. I charge 250 EUR for a detailed consultation. And remember (I have to mention this explicitly because it happens almost every day), I cannot answer questions if you write to me saying “I am an EU citizen and my wife is a non-EU citizen”. I need to know exactly all types of citizenship involved.

Posted in Europe, Family Law, German Law, Immigration Law, Law | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Bathing in Nature

Two things dissuade people from walking through the wilderness for days: the thought of sleeping outside and the lack of a shower. But, depending on the time of the year (midge season is worse than cold), sleeping outside can be more comfortable, more beautiful and definitely more interesting than spending every night of your life in a bed.

Showering/washing/bathing is no problem either. Even in the middle of nature, you encounter bathtubs from time to time, like this one which even had separate taps for cold and for hot water.

bathtub Sark

I saw this bathtub on Sark, but it was still too early for a bath, so I moved on unwashed. It is a small island and I figured there will be plenty of bathing opportunities later.

And indeed, when the time came to look for a place to spend the night, I accidentally discovered this beautiful spot on the west coast of Sark.

bathing beach Sark

I had the whole bay for myself. In the light of the setting sun, I washed myself in the English Channel.

It was my 36th birthday. No cake, no presents, no guests, no calls, but the joy of having found paradise.

By the way, experienced hikers know that sleeping or bathing outside are not the greatest challenges, but that the heavy backpack is.

(Zur deutschen Fassung.)

Posted in Photography, Sark, Travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

What do we need ISIS for?

After all, we already have Saudi Arabia:

Raif Badawi CNN(Auf Deutsch.)

Posted in Human Rights, Islam, Law, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism | Tagged , | 5 Comments