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EU to lift Schengen visa requirements for Kuwaitis

BRUSSELS: 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 travelling 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 short-stay 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 to engage 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 cooperating 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 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 takes effect once the visa waiver agreement enters into force, it said. The 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 policies 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). – KUNA

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