La Petite France, a scenic sight in Strasbourg... Image Credit: ©CRTA zvardon

Strasbourg: The European Parliament has voted by majority to exempt Emirati nationals from the requirement of a Schengen visa.

The vote was held during a session held today at Strasbourg.

A total of 523 votes were cast in favour of the decision by 577 EU representatives.

The decision means Emiratis will no longer require a visa for short stays (up to 90 days) in the Schengen area, whether for business, tourist or family visit purposes.

By no longer imposing strict travel restrictions upon Emiratis, conducting recreational and business affairs between countries should be a much less cumbersome process.

Leaders, people take credit

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, said that the European Parliament voted for the UAE as a result of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s blessings and the care and attention of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Shaikh Abdullah added in a telephone interview from Seoul aired by the Abu Dhabi Media channels on Thursday night on the news "Uloum Al Dar" programme, that this achievement is a recognition made by the EU to the UAE’s achievements.

Shaikh Abdullah also lauded the good conduct of UAE citizens in Europe and pointed out that this played an important role in obtaining this recognition.

Shaikh Abdullah was asked if this accomplishment embodies the saying that the UAE people are the happiest people, where he said that happiness is achieved through hard work. "We have to think of ways to make our homeland a better place so that the people are happier."

"This," he added, "is what distinguishes us."

Next phase

The next phase will be the implementation of the mechanism for carrying out the resolution. A UAE-EU joint work team will be set up to execute the resolution as quickly as possible. Following the completion of their duties, a final announcement will be made on cancelling the Schengen visa requirement for Emiratis.

In Strasbourg, and speaking on the occasion of the successful vote, Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, congratulated President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on this massive achievement.

Gargash said that this historic vote is the result of two years of hard work and led by Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, who was closely following up on the procedures of every phase. He pointed out that the UAE will be the first Arab country to receive the Schengen visa exemption, which reflects its good reputation and achievements on the regional and international stage.

He praised the role played by UAE Foreign Ministry, diplomatic missions abroad, and relevant UAE institutions. Gargash also thanked Sulaiman Al Mazroui, UAE Ambassador to Brussels, and the embassy’s staff for the important role they played.

The vote reaffirms the depth of strategic relations between the UAE and EU in the political and economic field. Mutual trade and investment between the UAE and Schengen countries is valued at 50 billion euros. A total of 508 weekly flights were recorded between the UAE and Europe. More than 160,000 EU citizens are living in the UAE, and more than 1.64 million EU nationals visited the UAE according to data collected in 2012.