BRUSSELS, June 29 (KUNA) -- European Union ambassadors Wednesday approved the negotiating mandate for the EU Council of Ministers on the liberalisation of short-stay Schengen visas for Kuwait and Qatar.
On the basis of this mandate, the EU presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament, said an EU statement this evening.
Czech Republic takes over the rotating EU Presidency from France on 1 July.
The Council, which represents the 27 EU member states, confirmed the EU Commission's proposal to provide for visa-free travel for the citizens of these two Gulf countries when travelling to the EU for a maximum duration of 90 days per 180-day period.
"The Council thus took the first step towards visa liberalisation with Kuwait and Qatar, which should apply after the conclusion of bilateral agreements with these countries, in particular to ensure that full reciprocity of this exemption for EU citizens is maintained," it noted.
The entry into force of the exemption should also take place after the effective entry into operation of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), scheduled for 2023.
In its negotiating mandate, the Council stressed that particular attention should also be paid to regional coherence, notably with a view to strengthening people-to-people contacts and travel between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
It therefore called on the European Commission to proceed rapidly to the assessment of the situation of these countries against the benchmarks with a view to exempting the other GCC member states from the visa requirement.
On 27 April, the European Commission published a proposal for visa liberalisation for nationals of Kuwait and Qatar.
Once the new visa regime has been agreed with European Parliament and formally adopted, it will move the two Gulf countries to visa-free countries, it noted. (end) nk.ibi