Diplomats, holiday-goers and travel agencies in Bahrain have expressed their delight at the updated Schengen visa regulations, welcoming the new five-year multi-entry visa which will facilitate travel to Europe.

The relaxation of visa rules was announced by the European Union (EU) on Monday.

UAE passport holders are already exempt from a visa to travel within the Schengen area as part of a bilateral agreement signed in 2015.

The announcement was made during the opening speech by High Representative Josep Borrell at the High-Level Forum on Regional Security and Co-operation in Luxembourg.

German Ambassador Clemens Hach stated that he was happy that the ‘hard work’ had finally paid off.

“We welcome the new Schengen visa rules for GCC citizens including those from Bahrain,” he told the GDN.

“The EU ambassadors were actively working on this matter for the past six months.

“This initiative was first taken by EU special representative for the GCC Luigi Di Maio last year during his GCC tour. He noticed the importance of improving travel by relaxing the visa rules which will further strengthen ties between the EU and the GCC.

“We expect a summer rush of applicants. This time they will be issued longer visas depending on their passport’s validity,” he added.

Mr Di Maio took to social media to celebrate the announcement. “I welcome the decision of the commission, to update rules on multi-entry visas for GCC citizens,” he said.

“Their citizens can now receive a five-year visa, which is excellent news for people-to-people relations between the EU and the GCC.”

The Schengen area comprises 29 European countries, including Germany, France, Poland and Spain, that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.

Bahrain Chamber’s hospitality and tourism committee chairman Jehad Amin listed out the advantages Bahrainis can benefit from with the decision.

“It simplifies the travel process, allowing citizens to visit multiple Schengen countries without needing a visa each time,” said Mr Amin, who is also Association of Bahrain Travel and Tourism Agents (ABTTA) chairman.

“This facilitates tourism and business travel.

“It cuts out the bureaucracy and complicated administrative procedures, from finding an appointment slot at the relevant embassy, to compiling all the necessary documentation required for every trip.

“It also promotes travel flexibility, encouraging more frequent trips and longer stays in Europe. Bahrainis are not long-term planners when it comes to leisure travel, hence the high demand for destinations offering visa-on-arrival and e-visa, such as Türkiye.

“The new visa can significantly boost the travel trade, diversify destinations, increase arrivals and foster stronger ties between Bahrain and Schengen countries.”

Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) director Dr Omar Al Ubaydli hailed the decision as being the next step in enhancing GCC-EU relations.

“Ever since the establishment of the GCC in 1981, the two have worked together closely,” he said. “Both sides understand the importance of allowing each to travel easily to each other.

“Every year, thousands of GCC citizens travel to the EU to learn, shop and explore, and the pace of this exchange will surely increase in light of this welcome decision.”

Travel agents across Bahrain have also welcomed the news, predicting it will provide a big boost to business. “More countries should consider adopting similar visa models,” Bahrain International Travel general manager CD Singh told the GDN. “Increased tourism to Europe not only means more business for us, but also means that people whose visas have been approved can travel with short notice.

“On top of that, they can now travel more than once a year to Europe if they want, because of the prolonged visa duration.

“This in turn means a boom for the airline industry as well, because more people will travel and probably more frequently.

“The UK and the US have already shown the benefits of utilising a long-term visa model, and I am sure Schengen countries will be next to show why hassle-free travel should be normalised.”

Bahraini travellers took to social media to express their happiness at the news, with some of them, such as 26-year-old Bahraini Shady Galal, already expressing an interest to travel to Europe under the new visa rules. “I think the new Schengen visa rules allowing GCC citizens to obtain a five-year multiple-entry visa are fantastic,” he told the GDN.

“It definitely makes me more interested in travelling to Europe because of the convenience and flexibility it offers.

“This change certainly makes travelling to Europe much easier and more accessible for many people from the Gulf region.”

Travel to the UK has already been eased for Bahraini citizens with the introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme, introduced in February.

The ETA replaces Electronic visa Waivers (EVW) and removes the visa requirement for short stays to the UK for Gulf and Jordanian nationals.

The GDN reported previously that MPs continued to press for Schengen visa waivers with its member countries too.

Former parliament speaker Fouzia Zainal in 2022 met members of the European Parliament, including its president Roberta Metsola, in Brussels and reviewed co-operation.

She urged them to consider Bahrain’s request to exempt its citizens from the Schengen visa and place it on the agenda of the European Parliament. She said the request was based on strong relations between Bahrain and the European Union countries in all political, economic, cultural, investment and tourism fields.


Copyright 2022 Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).