EU votes to allow visa-free travel for Emiratis

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The European Union Council of Ministers has officially adopted new regulations allowing UAE nationals to be exempt from visas when travelling to the Schengen zone.

According to the amended regulation, nationals from 21 countries will now be exempt from the visa requirement when crossing the EU’s external borders.

However, the exemption will come into force only when bilateral agreements on visa waivers between the EU and the countries concerned have been concluded in order to ensure full reciprocity, the EU said in a statement.

It said it would further assess the situation in Columbia and Peru before opening negotiations on bilateral agreements on visa waivers.

The regulation was recently amended to introduce a new safeguard clause allowing the temporary reintroduction of the visa requirement in specific circumstances.

The new rules also strengthened the “retaliation mechanism” in the case of a breach of reciprocity by a third country, when a country reintroduces a visa requirement for nationals of a particular or of several EU member states.

In March the UAE exempted citizens of 13 European member states from requiring a pre-entry visa to the UAE.

With citizens of the other 15 European member states already being exempt, the announcement meant that all citizens of the European Union holding an ordinary passport would be allowed to enter the UAE without having to previously apply for a visa.

At the time it was hailed by Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), as “a very positive announcement from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and one which will have a significant impact on the attractiveness of Dubai as a destination for tourists from the 13 countries included today in the exemption”.

“European countries have traditionally featured prominently in our top 20 source markets for visitors and the lifting of visa restrictions provides for easier travel arrangements from across the continent,” he said.

“The news has been received extremely positively here at ITB, both by our partners from the Dubai tourism industry and from the European travel industry. Through our network of offices across Europe we will use ruling to further promote Dubai's attractiveness as a destination for both leisure and business.”

The Schenzen Area is made up of 419m people and covers an area of 4,312,099 sq km. Its member states include Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania will join in the next few years, while EU member states the UK and Ireland have opted out of joining.

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