*** ----> Bahraini citizens granted 5-year visas in EU-Schengen rule update | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Bahraini citizens granted 5-year visas in EU-Schengen rule update

NOB | Manama     

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

In a landmark move aimed at bolstering regional ties and fostering greater cooperation, the European Union unveiled a significant relaxation of visa rules for citizens hailing from Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain.

The announcement, which came on Monday, sees the European Commission adopting three implementing decisions to update the issuance of multi-entry visas for these Gulf nations.

The pivotal announcement was made during the EU-GCC High-Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation held in Luxembourg.

Notable attendees included Dr. Shaikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Bahrain delegation's head, and Bahrain's Ambassador to Belgium, Abdulla bin Faisal bin Jabr Al Dosari.

Discussions at the forum revolved around fortifying security measures and enhancing strategic collaboration between the Gulf states and the EU.

Additionally, deliberations touched upon developments in the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas, emphasizing the urgency of achieving an immediate ceasefire.

Under the newly revised visa regulations, nationals residing in Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia will now be eligible for multiple-entry visas, allowing them to visit the EU multiple times over five years with a single visa.

This move aligns with the EU's vision of a "cascade" system, representing a harmonized approach to issuing multiple-entry visas with extended validity for all eligible applicants, including first-time travellers.

Importantly, visa holders will enjoy travel rights equivalent to those of visa-free nationals throughout the validity period.

The updated visa code serves a broader objective of standardizing visa regulations for all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries whose citizens require visas to access the Schengen Area.

This initiative marks a significant stride in fortifying people-to-people relations between the EU and the GCC, further underscored by the EU's Joint Communication on a "Strategic Partnership with the Gulf," encompassing relations with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain.

Analysts interpret this move as a preliminary step towards a Schengen waiver, signalling a potential future of streamlined travel between the EU and Gulf nations.

The Schengen Area, renowned as the world's largest free-travel zone spanning 29 European countries, recently expanded to include Bulgaria and Romania last February, eliminating air and maritime border controls.

A decision on the removal of land controls is expected shortly.

In a parallel development, Gulf countries announced plans for a unified tourist visa akin to Schengen last November, aimed at simplifying logistical procedures for both residents and tourists alike.

As the EU continues to deepen its ties with the Gulf region, the relaxation of visa rules stands as a testament to the mutual commitment towards enhancing cooperation and fostering closer diplomatic relations.