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EU synchronizes visa validity for GCC countries to 5 years

KUWAIT: In an exclusive interview with Kuwait Times, the EU Special Representative for the Gulf region Luigi Di Maio revealed during his visit to Kuwait that he met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah Al-Yahya, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Sabah, to discuss enhancing the partnership between the EU and the GCC, particularly with Kuwait.

He added, “The visit aimed to strengthen collaboration between the EU and the GCC as a regional organization, while also exploring opportunities with individual GCC countries. Kuwait is recognized as a reliable and solid partner, one on whom we can depend on and with whom we are actively engaged at bilateral and multilateral levels.”

Di Maio affirmed that Kuwait and the EU are addressing several critical issues, revealing “At the regional security level, a new structure for security dialogue with the GCC, including participation from Kuwaiti officials, has been established, where our senior officials are collaborating on various topics such as maritime security, cybersecurity, and counterterrorism, which are vital concerns we share”.

He recalled the importance of the participation by the Kuwait Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs to the first-ever EU-GCC High-Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation, organized in Luxembourg on April 22nd, an informal meeting between EU and GCC foreign ministers, where they discussed important matters. Regarding the business relations, he indicated that both EU and Kuwait’s business communities deserve more, stating “We hope the negotiation of the regional EU-GCC free trade agreement will conclude soon.

EU Special Representative for the Gulf region Luigi Di Maio
EU Special Representative for the Gulf region Luigi Di Maio

“However, it is crucial to explore and negotiate alternative formulas in complementarity, which we discussed extensively here in Kuwait, including not just the minister but other officials as well. Additionally, we recently decided to synchronize visa validity for all GCC countries to five years, a move in which Kuwait was a pioneer. Moving forward regarding visa liberalization, it will be up to the new European Commission and European Parliament to decide how to continue this process. I believe the people of Kuwait and the entire GCC deserve this achievement”.

He pointed out that his meeting with Rabah Al-Rabah, Director General of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and with Sheikh Dr Meshaal Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Director General of the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority showed significant potential to connect further, noting that there are potential investments in construction, food security, and healthcare sectors. In addition to a strong opportunity to enhance business relations through a structured process aimed at removing obstacles along the trade path, noting “For the European Union, Kuwait is one of the most important trade partners in the region, and we aim to maintain and grow this relationship”.

Di Maio contributed, “There is an interest from European companies and investors to collaborate with Kuwait, as Kuwait’s extensive investment in projects across various sectors, including aviation, shipping, ports, and railways along the Arabian Peninsula, positions it as a crucial link between the West and the East. We view these projects as excellent opportunities for partnership, facilitating the transportation of goods. For instance, the India–Middle East–Europe Economic Corridor project, signed on the margins of the G20 in New Delhi, represents an alternative route for goods, energy, and data, contributing to a true diversification of trade routes”.

Concerning the war in Gaza, the EU Special Representative for the Gulf Region stated that “I think that the number of casualties is unacceptable, we share the commitment to a two-state solution, as a structural solution for the crisis. We are very committed to the implementation of the latest resolution approved by the Security Council of the United Nations about a sustainable ceasefire and the protection of civilians. We both want to de-escalate the tensions at the border with Lebanon and in the region”.

As for new collaboration between the EU and Kuwait, Di Maio said that he discussed during his visit anew project of collaboration with the Kuwait Diplomatic Institute to promote the training of young European and Kuwaiti diplomats, adding “This initiative is a partnership between the Diplomatic Institute of Kuwait and the College of Europe in Bruges, one of Europe’s oldest institutions specializing in diplomacy, led by Rector Federica Mogherini. It builds on the first-ever project of common training for young diplomats from the GCC and the EU that took place in Bruges in May. It was the first step of what we were going to do, even bilaterally with Kuwait”.             

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