Single 'Schengen-type' GCC visa: Swiss echo business sentiments

Senior GCC official quoted as saying that GCC is headed towards a unified tourist visa as early as 2014

07 September 2013
A senior Swiss official has called on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to introduce a Schengen-type visa system to facilitate visits from foreign businesspeople and investors, according to Saudi Arabia's English daily 'Arab News'.

Addressing the GCC-Swiss Forum in Geneva this week, Erwin Bollinger, deputy head of foreign economic relations, was quoted as saying the move would help save a lot of time and energy.

"The situation now is that if a Swiss businessman wants to visit GCC states, which are all located in the Gulf region, he has to visit embassies of these countries to get visas," he said.

"It would be easy for GCC states to adopt the Schengen visa system," he added.

The Schengen system allows travel between its 25 member countries (22 European Union states and three non-EU members), making movement "much easier and less bureaucratic."
Last month, a senior official was quoted as saying that the GCC is headed towards a unified tourist visa as early as 2014.

"The GCC is currently striving to set up a computer system to exchange data in order to facilitate the issuance of a unified tourist visa for the entire region,"  Abdullah Al-Shobaily, assistant secretary-general for economic matters at the GCC, told Saudi newspaper, Al-Hayat daily.

According to Al-Shobaily, no timeframe has been set for the implementation of this single visa for the region.

He added: "Hammering out an agreement between the six GCC member states requires the completion of several technical and other formalities, including the installation of an information exchange system between government departments in the member states."

The agenda was discussed during a recent sitting of the Tourism Cooperation Committee of the GCC and the Gulf Tourism Committee of the Federation of Gulf Cooperation Council Chambers in Fujairah.
Economics has been cited as the driving force behind this decision with a  bid to promote tourism within the six-member nations by simplifying visa procedures for tourists.

Meanwhile, Al-Shobaily was also quoted as saying that unified GCC laws against commercial fraud and consumer protection are also in the final stages, to protect the rights of consumers, manufacturers, distributors, importers and exporters, as well as the economies of the six countries.

The Gulf Customs Union, set for a tentative schedule of 2015, will combat the sale of counterfeit goods within the GCC.

"The GCC Ministries of Commerce strive to heighten awareness of consumers about their rights besides providing them with goods and services of high quality at reasonable prices. The rights of traders and investors to make a reasonable profit will also be protected," he said.

© Emirates 24|7 2013


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