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EU visa waiver for Emiratis expected to be ratified soon

Endorsement by EU Parliament could be done by end of the year or early next year, officials say

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The EU-UAE visa waiver agreement may be ratified by the end of this year or the beginning of next year, whereby Emiratis would no longer require a visa for short stays (up to 90 days) in the Schengen countries, whether for business, tourist or family visit purposes, officials said on Wednesday.

“The visa waiver agreement between the EU and the UAE could be ratified by the European Parliament by the end of this year or at the beginning of next year,” Dr Mihai Stefan Stuparu, head of the EU mission to the UAE, told Gulf News.

Expressing the hope that the agreement will be ratified as soon as possible, Dr Stuparu said: “We are very committed and the UAE is a strategic partner of the EU.”

Dr Stuparu said the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council endorsed last month transferring the UAE to the Visa Free List.

“Now a visa waiver agreement has to be negotiated and signed by the UAE and the EU before it is eventually ratified by the European Parliament and the UAE’s authorities,” Dr Stuparu said.

In February, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to allow visa-free travel for UAE citizens to Europe.

Of the 577 members voting in Strasbourg, 523 voted in favour of waiving visa requirements for Emiratis travelling to the 26 Schengen Area countries.

Dr Stuparu said the European Commission will now request the European Council’s authorisation and mandate to negotiate the agreement before this summer break.

“Once the visa waiver deal is signed, it will be presented to the European Parliament for ratification.”

On how soon Emiratis can enjoy Schengen visa-free status, Dr Stuparu suggested the negotiations over the visa waiver deal will not take a long time, given the political willingness shown by the European Parliament’s voting this year and the fact that the agreement is not controversial and that the UAE is a strategic EU partner.

Sulaiman Al Mazroui, UAE ambassador to the European Union, agreed the EU-UAE visa waiver agreement has no disputed points and only technical aspects remain before it is ratified and put into force.

The UAE will become the first Arab country whose citizens are exempted from the Schengen visa, said Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

Dr Gargash praised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UAE’s mission to the EU, saying they had done a very professional job over this, working through a complex process over the past two and a half years.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the European Parliament’s decision reflected great credit on the visionary leadership of the founding father Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a legacy being pursued by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Giorgio Starace, ambassador of Italy to the UAE, told Gulf News his country has strongly supported the proposal to establish a “visa waiver” between the EU and the UAE. “This development will contribute to the strengthening of our relations of friendship and cooperation through greater mobility among the peoples of the two countries,” Starace said.

The Italian ambassador said on July 1 his country will take the EU Presidency and “we will try to reinforce even more the relations between EU and UAE”.

Mutual trade and investment between the UAE and Schengen countries is valued at €50 billion (Dh255.70 billion). A total of 508 weekly flights were recorded between the UAE and Europe. More than 160,000 EU citizens live in the UAE, and more than 1.64 million EU nationals visited the UAE, according to data collected in 2012.