UAE calls on Europe to scrap 'restrictive visa rules'

Call comes as proposal is being considered to grant Emiratis visa-free access
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE foreign minister.
By Shane McGinley
Thu 13 Jun 2013 12:11 PM

UAE's Foreign Minister has called on Europe to approve a proposal to grant UAE citizens visa-free access to its borders, claiming Emiratis are “too often stopped at European borders and turned away because of unclear, complex, and restrictive visa regulations.”

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said in Athens following a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras: “In the coming weeks, the European Union is expected to make an important decision on the expansion of the list of countries that are granted visa-free access to the Schengen Area.

"For over two years, the Government of Greece has publicly, and repeatedly, expressed its view that the UAE should be added to that visa-free list. We are grateful for that support,” he said.

Last year a proposal was tabled to allow UAE citizens visa-free access to the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area. This was initially opposed by Austria, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, but Germany and The Netherlands reversed their stance.

While on a visit to Vienna this week for the opening of a new $9m building to house the UAE Embassy, Sheikh Abdullah also appealed to Austrian authorities to support the UAE’s bid for visa-free access for its citizens.

“The most important aspect of mutual friendship is enhancing the ease of movement between our two countries. Austrian citizens, along with most Europeans, are granted free 30-day visas upon arrival to the UAE. The UAE is asking that its citizens be granted similar access to the countries of the Schengen Area, in recognition of the excellent relations between the UAE and Europe, and of the significant economic contribution of Emirati activities on the continent,” he said.

“Too often, Emirati citizens are stopped at European borders and turned away because of unclear, complex, and restrictive visa-regulations. The UAE is proud to call itself a friend of Austria and a friend of Europe. We are happy to continue to contribute to this friendship and to continue investing and spending in Europe. In return, the UAE expects to be treated as a friend, including upon arrival at Europe's borders,” he added.

The Schengen Area is made up of 419m people and covers an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres. 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 this year, while EU member states the UK and Ireland have opted out of joining.

However, a senior British official told Forbes magazine’s Arabic edition the UK will scrap visa requirements for UAE nationals by the end of the year.

The visa-free entry was a key priority for the Arab country during UAE president Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al Nahya’s visit to the UK in April.

The unnamed British official said procedures to exempt UAE nationals from the visa requirements were well advanced and an announcement was expected in the last quarter of this year.

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