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BRUSSELS, April 27: The European Commission Wednesday proposed to lift visa requirements for nationals of Kuwait and Qatar. Under this proposal, once agreed, Kuwait and Qatar nationals holding biometric passports would no longer need a visa when traveling to the EU for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period for business, tourism or family purpose, it said in a press release.
This proposal comes after the Commission assessed a number of criteria including irregular migration, public policy and security, economic benefits, and the Union’s relations with the two countries. It will contribute to strengthening relations with Gulf countries. EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, said: “Our proposal to lift visa requirements for Qatari and Kuwaiti nationals is a first step to make it easier for people from the entire region to travel to the European Union. “
“The final objective is to ensure regional coherence and ultimately achieve visa free travel for all Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Together with our upcoming Joint Communication on the Gulf, this proposal will reinforce the overall partnership and strengthen the cooperation between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council,” he said.
On his part, European Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Today we are proposing shortstay visa-free travel to the EU for Qatari and Kuwaiti citizens with biometric passports – facilitating people-to-people contacts and strengthening business, social and cultural ties.”
“This is the result of the success of the governments of Qatar and Kuwait in achieving far-reaching reforms and reflects the increasing intensity and depth of EU relations with both countries. It is an important achievement for citizens in both regions, and I hope that the European Parliament and the Council will adopt our proposal swiftly,” he said. EU Commissioner for Interior Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “The proposal for visa exemption for Qatar and Kuwait nationals facilitates business travels, tourism and family visits to the EU. It is also a step towards stronger regional coherence in the Gulf region when it comes to visa regimes.
The EU will continue engaging with the remaining visa required Gulf countries that are interested in visa-free travel to the EU.” After an assessment of the criteria set in the EU rules on visa requirements, the Commission said it concluded that Qatar and Kuwait present low irregular migration risks and are increasing cooperation on security issues with the EU. They issue biometric passports, which is a pre-condition for visa-free travel to the EU. Qatar and Kuwait are also important economic partners for the Union, in particular in the area of energy. It is now for the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to examine the proposal and decide whether to grant visa-free travel to the EU to nationals of Qatar and Kuwait.
If the proposal is adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, the EU will negotiate a visa waiver agreement with Qatar and Kuwait, respectively, to ensure full visa reciprocity for EU citizens. Visa-free travel to the EU for nationals of Qatar and Kuwait will start applying once the visa waiver agreement enters into force, it said.
The EU’s executive body said the EU will continue engaging with the remaining visa-required Gulf Cooperation Council countries that are interested in visa free travel to the EU The Commission will shortly launch technical discussions with these partners on the fulfillment of criteria for visa exemption under the Visa Regulation. The final objective is to achieve visa free travel for all Gulf Cooperation Council countries. The EU currently has visa-free regimes in place with more than 60 countries and territories. Under the visa exemption, travelers can visit all EU Member States except for Ireland, as well as the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
Kuwait’s mission to the European Union in Brussels welcomed the European Commission’s announcement of inclusion Kuwait in the list of countries whose nationals will be exempted from the Schengen visa. In a statement, it noted that the is a start of a series of official final negotiations between Kuwait and the European Union aimed at exempting Kuwaiti citizens from the Schengen visa, stressing However, this declaration reflects the distinguished and strong relations between the two sides at all levels. The statement stressed that the decision’s entry into force requires time, affirming the need for citizens wishing to travel to the Schengen area to obtain the required visa until the completion of those procedures and the official announcement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kuwait’s ambassador to the European Union, NATO and Belgium, Jasem Al-Budaiwi, Wednesday lauded the decision by the European Commission to lift Schengen visa requirements for Kuwaiti citizens as a “momentous day for Kuwait.”
“Today we are added to a list of countries whose nationals will be exempted from visa to the Schengen area for short term stays. This is a culmination of a lot of hard work from many people, colleagues,” Al- Budaiwi said on his twitter message. “The people of Kuwait have increasingly looked to Europe and all the EU member states for tourism, education, health, investment, business, and much, much more,” he noted.
“This breakthrough will positively facilitate this trend and ensure that Kuwait remain important partners,” he stressed. Kuwait and EU share a special bond that will only continue to grow deeper with this new decision, he said. The Kuwaiti ambassador expressed a” big thanks to the efforts of EU High Representative Josep Borrel and his team for guiding and supporting Kuwait through its endeavor to achieve visa free travel for its citizens.” He also thanked European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas for his relentless support and assistance and advice, and voiced his gratitude to EU Commissioner for interior affairs Ylva Johansson for constantly pushing and championing Kuwait’s efforts to obtain a Schengen visa waiver for its citizens. Al-Budaiwi added on his twitter account that “he is looking forward to even closer cooperation with our EU partners.” , (KUNA)