Interview by Nawab Khan
BRUSSELS, Dec 1 (KUNA) -- The Chair of the European Parliamentsآ’ Committee on civil liberty, justice and interior affairs, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, Thursday said that Schengen visa-waiver for Kuwait is a good step which will contribute to mutual cooperation and understanding.
"It will help to mutual cooperations and understanding in many ways not only tourism, but business and academic exchange, scholars," he told the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) in an interview after the vote in the Committee on visa-free travel for Kuwait and Qatar.
"So it is a very good step. A very positive signal. We are trying to be cooperative. We are trying to be positive. The European Parliament has negotiated real hard and we have endorsed the exemption of visa requirement for Kuwaiti citizens hoping that it will help mutual understanding and cooperation," said the Spanish MEP.
"I am a strong advocate for the visa-waiver or the visa exemption. Why? Because it favours exchange, it favours mutual knowledge. It faovurs cooperation. It is also beneficial for the citizens of EU nationals who are willing to travel abroad to get to know better," he said.
"The visa waiver is not only a benefit for Kuwaiti citizens but also for European citizens travelling to Kuwait," said the former Justice Minister of Spain.
He noted that the European Commission took the initiative to waive visa requirement for Kuwait and Qatar and now they have also added Oman and Ecuador to the list.
"We have worked hard to pass the proposal which favours the enlargement of the visa waiver. It wasnآ’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 on Kuwait that it has to self-impose a moratorium on death penalties," he said.
Commenting on the next steps, he said todayآ’s proposals have to be agreed by the Council of the EU which represents the 27 EU governments.
He opined that normally when the competent committee, the law-making committee has shown a wide majority to endorse the visa-waiver it will be supported in the full European Parliament if there is a vote.
"But important is that the process is completed with the Council because it takes two in the European decision making and for the law making. We have done a part of the job and hope that the Council will do its part," he added.
Explaining the work of the committee, he said "this committee is the first law-making committee in the European Parliament. It is the one responsible for making laws as to entering the territory of the EU and thus is the one responsible for EU regulation on visa." The regulation also states nationals of which third countries are requested to show their visas when entering the EU territory and whose nationals are exempted from the visa requirement, he clarified.
The European Parliamentsآ’ Committee on civil liberty, justice and interior affairs Thursday voted in favour of lifting the Schengen visa requirement for Kuwait, but under a condition.
"In the case of Kuwait, MEPs support visa freedom on condition of a moratorium on the application of the death penalty, which should be in place before visa freedom is implemented through bilateral negotiations," said the amended text which was approved by 42 votes in favour 16 against and 0 abstaining.
The Committee also approved the proposal for a visa-free travel for Qatar, Oman and Ecuador. (end) nk.mt