General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, with Laurent Fabius at Emirates Palace. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, expressed his gratitude to France for supporting the UAE’s efforts to get exemption for UAE citizens from entry visas to Schengen nations.

“France supported the efforts by the UAE for exemption of Emiratis from entry visa to Schengen countries. Visa exemption for Emiratis in European Union member countries is one of the priorities of our foreign policy. So France’s support to our efforts received appreciation and gratitude from our side,” said Shaikh Abdullah at a ceremony to inaugurate the new French Embassy premises in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night.

Last week, Shaikh Abdullah told the Federal National Council (FNC) that talks with the European Union (EU) resulted in Schengen countries agreeing in principle to exempt Emiratis from entry visas. “The EU has submitted a motion to the commissioner concerned and we are waiting for a recommendation to be submitted to the European parliament for approval,” he said.

The foreign minister also told the FNC that within the next 12 months, there would be positive results, hinting that visa requirements could be waived by Schengen countries and the UK.

At the ceremony, Shaikh Abdullah and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening of the new French Embassy at Etihad Towers in the capital. The embassy will move from its current location to the new one this week, the officials said.

Addressing guests at the ceremony, the French foreign minister highlighted the 42 years of friendship between the UAE and France.

The friendship is deep-rooted in various sectors including economy, culture and strategic relations, Fabius said in French, apologising to the audience that he had to speak in French as the French foreign minister.

Shaikh Abdullah said apart from traditional relations in diplomacy, investment, tourism and all other sectors, common interest in international security make the France-UAE relation a unique one. Both nations are at the forefront in combating risks to international stability. The UAE supported France’s efforts to enforce peace and security in Mali, Libya and Afghanistan, he said.

He said cultural and educational cooperation, and knowledge exchange between the UAE and France have contributed to improving academic and cultural performance in the UAE. Establishing French higher-education institutes provided great opportunities for Emirati youth to receive high-quality education, Shaikh Abdullah said, citing the establishment of Sorbonne Abu Dhabi University.

The opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi, a fine arts museum on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, in cooperation with the Louvre, France’s national museum, represents a significant step towards establishing a global cultural hub in the UAE, Shaikh Abdullah said.

“These projects would not have been possible without our strong bilateral relations,” he said.

Alain Azouaou, French Ambassador to the UAE, and senior UAE and French officials also attended the ceremony.

Earlier on Saturday both the foreign ministers had a meeting at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi, discussing bilateral relations and their positions on the latest regional and international developments, as well as matters of common interest.