Muscat: The Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament has approved visa-free travel for citizens of Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Ecuador, a statement said.
The EU Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs endorsed a proposal to grant visa-free travel of up to 90 days to citizens of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Ecuador on Thursday (42 votes in favour, 16 against, 0 abstaining)
But in the case of Kuwait, the members supported visa freedom on the condition of a moratorium on death penalty.
They said visa freedom can be used to develop the partnership between EU countries and the Gulf States, emphasizing that a human rights dialogue must be part of such development.
According to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), the Chair of the European Parliament’s committee on civil liberty, justice and interior affairs Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said: “I am a strong advocate for visa-waiver or visa exemption. Why? Because it favours exchange and favours mutual knowledge. It favours cooperation. It is also beneficial for EU citizens who are willing to travel abroad.”
The Spanish MEP added that the European Commission took the initiative to waive the visa requirement for Kuwait and Qatar, and have now added Oman and Ecuador to the list.
“We have worked hard to pass the proposal which favours the enlargement of the visa waiver. It wasn’t easy. Let us say it clearly. Executions and death penalty in Kuwait have been a major blow to the process,” said Lopez Aguilar, who has been an MEP since 2009 for the Socialist group in the EP.
“That is why there has been an amendment in Kuwait that it has to self-impose a moratorium on death penalties,” he said.
The MEPs noted that Ecuador has consistently demonstrated its commitment to respecting human rights, although more work is needed on prison conditions, women’s rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples and refugees, among other things.
The draft legislation will now have to be endorsed by the full house of the European Parliament. Then, the Parliament and European Council can negotiate the final form of the legislation.
When the law takes effect, each visa waiver would be negotiated bilaterally between the EU and third countries.
Explaining the work of the committee, Lopez Aguilar said” “This committee is the first law making committee in the European Parliament. It is the one responsible for making laws to enter the territory of the EU and thus is the one responsible for EU regulations on visas”.
The regulation also states nationals of which third countries are requested to show visas when entering the EU territory and whose nationals are exempted from the visa requirement, he clarified.
MEPs said the dialogue between the EU countries and the Gulf states should happen at least annually, and the European Parliament should be informed of the progress, adding that visa waivers should be cancelled if there is no progress in areas of concern.