The Greek Ombudsman

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GlennB
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Joined: Thu May 04, 2017 9:38 pm

The Greek Ombudsman

Postby GlennB » Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:40 pm

This is likely to yield a resounding 'NO', but has anyone here, or anyone you know, tried to sort out a problem by submitting their story to the Greek Ombudsman?

Our efforts to prove that we're married so that we can pay our E1 taxes (now well in arrears) have hit a brick wall of bureaucracy, so we submitted the whole sorry tale on the Ombudsman website. That was 12 days ago and we realise that's a very short time even to get an acknowledgment, but there it sits with no action/investigator showing. Are we wasting our time?

Also, given that our income is small and our E1 payment is typically in the low 3-figures, how long might it be before the tax people sit up and take notice? We fear that they might ignore it forever but that the subject would raise its ugly head if ever we tried to sell our house.

Cheers

Glenn

YoMo2
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Location: Milatos, Lasithi

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby YoMo2 » Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:07 am

I had a similar lack of response when I tried . It was ages ago though, so I can't remember the details. I think there was an issue about dealing with complaints submitted in English. I did eventually speak to them I think, but I can't remember how it panned out. It is an active service, but I don't think they are terrrifically well set up to deal with foreigners.

What I would do is resubmit in English, but in a very abbreviated form. Too much information will just get it sidelined. Tell them the bare minimum, include a phone number. You are aiming to get it activated not an immediate solution. Once they are in contact, you can dump the rest of the information on them.

Alternatively, get a Greek friend to submit your issue, again in a very short form.

If all that fails, well, this is Greece....

Andrew

PS. What has the tax man said about this? Surely you would think they would help you resolve it in order to get paid. But then, this is Greece....

GlennB
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Joined: Thu May 04, 2017 9:38 pm

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby GlennB » Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:49 am

OK cheers. There's a very sleek branch of their website that's entirely in English so I can't think that would be the problem.

As for 'the tax man', well, when we took a translation of our marriage certificate to the local office the official noticed that it described us as 'bachelor' and 'spinster' and reckoned it proved the exact opposite of what we were claiming. When we phoned the regional office the guy got very irate and denied there could possibly be such a mistake in their records! We can't see a way out of this.

Eleni13
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Location: UK

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby Eleni13 » Mon Feb 05, 2018 10:11 am

You really do need the help of a Greek.Officialdom is more likely to listen to a native speaker.

GlennB
Posts: 62
Joined: Thu May 04, 2017 9:38 pm

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby GlennB » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:05 am

Eleni13 wrote:You really do need the help of a Greek.Officialdom is more likely to listen to a native speaker.


We changed accountants and the new guy is Greek and more or less bilingual. He was unable to get the tax official to do anything about it. She seems to have dug in her heels and decided it's nothing to do with her. It's odd really, as I'd guess a few clicks on a computer would sort it all out.

Kilkis
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Location: Near Chania

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby Kilkis » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:24 am

Have you tried asking the British Consulate for help? Perhaps a letter from them written in Greek on Embassy headed note paper signed by the Consul. Head the letter UK Marriage Certificate. Then something along the lines of:

"To whom it may concern, column 4 on a UK Marriage Certificate is headed "Condition". This column specifies the marital status of each person named in column 2 BEFORE the marriage takes place. This Column should show Bachelor/Spinster, Widowed or Divorced. The certificate as a whole proves that a marriage has taken place and that the people named in Column 2 are married."

Warwick

GlennB
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Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby GlennB » Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:00 pm

Kilkis wrote:Have you tried asking the British Consulate for help? Perhaps a letter from them written in Greek on Embassy headed note paper signed by the Consul. Head the letter UK Marriage Certificate. Then something along the lines of:

"To whom it may concern, column 4 on a UK Marriage Certificate is headed "Condition". This column specifies the marital status of each person named in column 2 BEFORE the marriage takes place. This Column should show Bachelor/Spinster, Widowed or Divorced. The certificate as a whole proves that a marriage has taken place and that the people named in Column 2 are married."

Warwick


Yes, I emailed them and they replied with a list of recommended Greek lawyers. I suppose it's pretty small beer from their point of view. It's pretty ironic that obstacles are being put in the way of people who actually want to pay their taxes ;) In fact that was the main theme in our submission to The Ombudsman.

Kilkis
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Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby Kilkis » Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:36 pm

I'm afraid Greek bureaucracy can be immensely stubborn. When my wife died the Greek registrar in the local council office completed one part of the death certificate incorrectly. The probate court would not accept the certificate and the registrar refused to alter it, because she claimed that the way she had completed it was correct. My lawyer had to apply for a court order to force her to change it which cost me an extra €500.

It is possible that a lawyer could present your marriage certificate to the court and get the court to issue an order that the certificate proves that you are married, or even an order to force the tax office to accept the certificate as proof of marriage, but it would cost money. I don't know if it would be possible. Another possibility might be to ask the FCO if they could issue an Apostille stamp stating explicitly that the certificate is proof of your marriage. Again I don't know if it is possible since their job is to verify stamps and signatures not content.

Warwick

Clio
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Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby Clio » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:27 pm

I’m afraid I don't have a lot for your comfort, Glenn, just a lot of sympathy for a predicament which is depressingly familiar to many of us.

I’m not sure what it is about Greek officialdom, but I do understand that it’s deep-rooted in literally Byzantine aspects of Greek culture which are quite alien to those of us used to different systems. An overall lack of transparency and accountability among public servants at all levels, from clerk to MP. A mutual wariness and suspicion between those in authority and the public at large, that goes back to Turkish times. Linked to that, an astonishing (to us) arrogance on the part of people who can sometimes behave arbitrarily like feudal lords bestowing or withholding those things within their gift or remit.

You mention the tax official who “ seems to have dug in her heels and decided it's nothing to do with her”. We’ve all met her, at every public office. She’s the under-manager who has you standing like a supplicant waiting for her to stamp your form, while she carries on chatting on her mobile. The hospital receptionist who takes the phone off the hook so she doesn’t have to make appointments while she’s drinking her frappe. The official who deliberately carries on shuffling papers while you hang about trying to catch his eye just in order to ask for directions.

On a personal level, She’s the IKA supervisor who is refusing to renew my health book even though she is in breach of EU legislation.

This disregard for ordinary people in search of answers/help/applications or whatever operates at all levels. I can’t remember how many years it is now that I’ve been awaiting a response to my own letter to the Ombudsman. (written In Greek…) Likewise the registered letter to the Minister of Society Security. My lawyer has twice been to a public office in Heraklion to make an application on my behalf, only to be told that they’ll have to check with Athens and get back to us. That was months ago and we’re still waiting. And as anyone in Crete will tell you, that office never answers its phones, so he's about to make a third visit.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying, I’m afraid, that you shouldn’t expect to hear back from the Ombudsman. So what to do? Warwick's suggestions may be worth following up, but before going that route I'd suggest getting a lawyer (an English-speaking Greek lawyer who understands exactly what you’re on about) to go in person to the tax office to take on the jobsworth in question.

Clio

PS The response which you had from the British consul shows that British bureaucrats can be just as unhelpful. The difference is that they actually write to TELL you so...

GlennB
Posts: 62
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Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby GlennB » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:47 pm

Warwick, Clio - thanks for your words of support and advice. It is helpful to hear other such stories, if only to understand that we are not alone and not doing anything particularly wrong.

A lawyer it is then! Hire a lawyer who will be paid to insist we be allowed to pay our taxes! ** giggle **

In other news ... we went to KEP today to start the process of renewing our IKA books. There was a language battle where my wife was talking Greek while the KEP lady insisted on English. Very confusing :D Also, she hadn't heard about any new systems and declined to phone the main IKA office to see whether the dilosis we had prepared following the advice I read here were even required, let alone what they should say exactly. I foresee another battle. I foresee a total catch-22 where we need the blue residence permit for IKA but can't get it because we won't have IKA cover to satisfy the police, and we can't get IKA cover because we don't have the blue permit.

I was about to quit smoking, but it's definitely the wrong time. It might be a good time to quit sniffing glue though ;)

Kilkis
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Location: Near Chania

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby Kilkis » Mon Feb 05, 2018 4:42 pm

I had another thought about the Apostille stamp. While the FCO do not verify the content of a document, simply that any stamp or signature is valid, they might be able to state something along the lines that: "The attached document is a valid UK Marriage Certificate. The purpose of the document is to certify that the two people named in column 2 were legally married under UK law on the date shown in column 1". Certainly the first sentence should be within their remit. I don't see how the second sentence compromises them in any way?

Warwick

GlennB
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Joined: Thu May 04, 2017 9:38 pm

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby GlennB » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:34 pm

Kilkis wrote:I had another thought about the Apostille stamp. While the FCO do not verify the content of a document, simply that any stamp or signature is valid, they might be able to state something along the lines that: "The attached document is a valid UK Marriage Certificate. The purpose of the document is to certify that the two people named in column 2 were legally married under UK law on the date shown in column 1". Certainly the first sentence should be within their remit. I don't see how the second sentence compromises them in any way?

Warwick


I should have mentioned that we got the apostille and we did, indeed, request a thing or two along those lines. In particular our new accountant wanted them to state that the Hague Convention that would be mentioned corresponds to Greek law xyz, which the tax office would want to see. No such luck. The UK document verification service is 'vanilla' in that respect, afaics.

paul g
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Location: Nr. Kato Gouves

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby paul g » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:23 am

show em your wedding photos.

GlennB
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Joined: Thu May 04, 2017 9:38 pm

Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby GlennB » Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:16 am

paul g wrote:show em your wedding photos.


Hmmm, yes, we could bore them into submission with an enormous presentation of family photos. Start with the marriage, kids when babies, kids growing up, holidays in Greece way back, moving to Greece ... :D

Clio
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Re: The Greek Ombudsman

Postby Clio » Wed Feb 07, 2018 3:21 pm

has anyone here, or anyone you know, tried to sort out a problem by submitting their story to the Greek Ombudsman?


To qualify my earlier reply, Glenn:

When I was at KEP yesterday (see IKA thread if you can be bothered) the younger, internet-savvy member of staff was listening to me talking about my problems with the social security system and my (specialist) lawyer’s apparent inability to resolve them.

What you need, said young Nikos, is this wonderful new online organization that offers legal help and advice to ordinary people, without charge. They were really helpful to Mixalis P. who had a problem not unlike yours, and we know here of others cases where people have been helped. They have a really good website, in English if you need it. Get on to them right away!

For the first time I felt a twinge of optimism. I visualised this online pro bono law centre, staffed by dedicated crusading young legal experts bent on demolishing the monolith of Greek bureaucracy in the interests of Sifis Saponakis. Shirtsleeves, loosened tie, perhaps a young George Clooney?

So I scribbled down the name of this wonderful pro bono outfit without really registering it, went home and immediately called up the site and guess what: it’s your new friend and my old one, the Greek Ombudsman.

Now admittedly the complaint which I submitted to Kirios Ombusman years ago, and to which I never got a reply, was on a different matter. There’s a new Oxford-educated incumbent in the job, and it is a persuasive website. So I’ll probably join you in that same boat, Glenn, and fire off my pages of complaint. First one to get a reply gets the drinks in?


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