x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Time for EU to ease visa rules

Out of the 27 European Union member states, only four objected to allowing Emiratis visa-free entry into the Schengen area.

The UAE has just come up four votes shy of taking the next step towards visa-free entry for its citizens into Europe.

Out of the 27 European Union member states, only four countries objected to allowing Emiratis hassle-free entry into the Schengen area.

Having recently been through the time consuming, costly and arduous process of obtaining a Schengen visa, I, like many other Emiratis, would more than welcome this development.

I could go through the rest of my life without having to endure multiple trips to the visa processing centre, being without my passport for almost four weeks and, despite applying the recommended month in advance, sweating it out visa-less just days before my flight.

These application endeavours put many Emiratis off travelling to Europe. Instead, we are increasingly opting for visa-free countries such as Thailand, Turkey and Malaysia.

Europe's loss is these countries' gain as millions of dirhams in tourist, business, medical and education spending is funnelled into these regions.

Even though the UAE came up short of the unanimous backing required to remove the Emirates off the visa-required list, it seems that 23 of the 27 EU countries are ready to give Emiratis visa-free status.

And rightfully so.

The UAE warrants this recognition by continuously showing levels of economic and social development envied by other nations. The nation has demonstrated time and again its peaceful and open nature, which respects and aids its neighbours and welcomes people from all corners of the world.

Its people are no different, possessing hospitality and a familiarity with and respect of the numerous cultures that make up the majority of their population.

Furthermore, the small population of UAE citizens poses no migration risk since the overwhelming majority would never consider leaving their safe and prosperous nation for another.

Although living most of my life outside the country, I have still returned to my nation and have no intention or desire to leave it for another.

These innate traits and factors, as well as the Emiratis' spending power, make UAE citizens ideal visitors for any nation in the world.

The UK has recently acknowledged this fact with indications that the process of removing visa requirements for the UAE is seriously being considered.

UK and most EU citizens enjoy visa upon arrival in the UAE, and although many should provide visa reciprocity, I believe that every nation, including ours, has a right to choose its visa requirements unilaterally.

Although it would greatly benefit the EU and the UK to facilitate the ease of travel their citizens are provided in the UAE to Emiratis, it would be detrimental for our economy to do the same.

Being the open and welcoming nation we have always been while continuing our path of development and prosperity will undoubtedly lead these and many more nations to be more welcoming of us.

Thamer Al Subaihi is a reporter at The National and a returning Emirati who grew up largely in the US

twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE