The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah, has called for Emiratis to be given a 30-day visit visa on arrival in Europe, the state news agency Wam has said.
On a visit to Belgium on Friday, the minister met the Belgian deputy prime minister, Pieter De Crem, and the minister for foreign affairs as part of a tour to a number of EU countries.
The meeting discussed ways of reinforcing bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in trade and commerce, as well as developments in the Middle East.
Sheikh Abdullah spoke of the mutual friendship between Belgium and the UAE and how Belgium was one of the first countries to recognise the independence of the UAE and vote for its admission to the UN.
On access for Emiratis to the Schengen area countries – a group of 26 countries in Western Europe – Sheikh Abdullah said: “The most important aspect of mutual friendship is enhancing the ease of movement between our two countries.
“Belgian citizens, along with most Europeans, are granted 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.”
European countries have been compiling reports on the viability of allowing UAE citizens into their countries visa-free since last November. However, The National reported last month that any relaxation of existing restrictions would not take place until next year.
“A visa waiver process is very painstaking administratively,” an EU official said. “It’s not just the member states who decide but the [European] Commission and the European Parliament and this normally takes time.”
Last week Sheikh Abdullah also met members of the European Parliament and inaugurated the UAE-European Parliamentary Friendship Group, which aims to strengthen communication between parliament members and UAE peers.
A number of countries, including Slovakia, Spain and Greece, have expressed their support publicly to revised visa rules.
However, four countries, including Germany and Belgium, initially opposed any change. Although Germany has since changed its position, it is still unknown whether the others will follow suit.
That, in part, is the catalyst for Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Belgium.
Sheikh Abdullah talked about the visitor exchange programme between the two countries that results in 2,000 people travelling between Abu Dhabi and Brussels every week. He added that more than 30,000 Belgians live in the UAE, 30 Belgian companies operate here and trade between the two is estimated at €4?billion (Dh19.2bn).