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EU, Kuwait ‘discuss’ Schengen visa waiver ‘Technical issues involved’

 BRUSSELS, March 15, (KUNA): Senior officials from Kuwait’s foreign and interior ministries have ended a twoday visit to Brussels after discussions and meetings with EU officials that focused on lifting of Schengen visa for Kuwaiti citizens. Ambassador Walid Alkhobaizi, director of Europe department at Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry, told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) and Kuwait TV that they were tasked by the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al- Khaled Al-Hamad Al- Sabah to look into the possibility of starting the talks and the preparation and requirements which are needed to enter this visa waiver. “We found a big support from the European Commission. We met officials from the technical and political departments.

All the meetings were very encouraging but the way is long and we need to start now,” he said after holding talks with the managing director for Middle East and Southern Neighbourhood in the EU foreign service, (EEAS), Hugues Mingarelli, late on Friday. Al Khobaizi explained that there are technical issues involved like changing passports and “these things take time,” and he noted that there are many European countries that support Kuwait on this path. He said that Kuwaitis who visit Europe are businessmen, entrepreneurs, tourists, treatment-seeking patients or students, all of whom spend a lot of money in Europe.

He clarified that Kuwait citizens have no records of “illegal immigration to Europe and there are no Kuwaiti citizens in European jails or involved in criminal acts.” “Therefore Europe has no reason to refuse this privilege to Kuwait. It is the country most deserving,” he stressed. He said that Kuwait- Europe relations are “strong and firm” and that Kuwait plays an active role in investments in Europe. Kuwait has democracy and respect of human rights, factors that strengthen ties with Europeans, he noted. Europe played an active role in the liberation of Kuwait and Europeans are considered as strategic partners, said the Kuwaiti diplomat. The delegation also held talks with officials in the Belgian Foreign Ministry as well as deputies in the Belgian Parliament. From Belgium, the Kuwaiti delegation will travel to Italy Saturday to hold talks with officials from the interior ministry as well as passport and immigration officials on the Schengen visa waiver.

On his part, Mingarelli told KUNA that Friday’s meeting “is an important occasion for us to stress our wish to intensify our relationship with Kuwait.” “Kuwait is an important country in the Middle East and we have a number of common interests and we would like to discuss a number of regional issues on which we should join efforts to find out solutions to existing difficulties,” he said. He said the issue of Schengen visa was raised at the meeting and the EU side told Kuwait how to process to get a visa waiver. “It should not take too long but at the same time it is necessary to go through a number of steps,” said the EU official but added that he “cannot give a deadline or timetable.” The delegation included Brigadier Sheikh Mazen Al-Sabah, the director of the citizenship and travel documents department of the Ministry of Interior, Talal Marafie, the deputy director of the immigration department (Ministry of Interior), Counselor Salah Alhaddad from the Europe Department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Diplomatic Attache Ali Alwazzan, of the Europe Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kuwait’s Ambassador to the EU and Belgium Dharar Razzooqi also took part in the meetings.

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