Emiratis’ visa-free travel to Europe applauded by Cyprus

Cyprus' deputy foreign minister was part of a delegation to the UAE led by the country's president - the first such trip in more than 20 years.

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DUBAI // A top Cypriot official has praised the advent of visa-free entry for Emiratis to Europe and lauded his own country's role in pushing for the change.

Alexandros Zinon, Cyprus’ deputy foreign minister, was part of a delegation led by Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades on a three-day tour to the UAE this week, which marked the first visit of a president from the island nation in more than 20 years.

He said his country had played an important role in pushing for easing travel for Emiratis to the 26 Schengen countries in Europe and said the move would improve “people-to-people contacts” between the UAE and his country.

"Cyprus was one of the first countries in the EU to advocate for visa liberalisation for UAE nationals," said Mr Zinon, who left the UAE on Wednesday.

“Since 2009, Cyprus has been consistently proposing the inclusion of the UAE in the positive list of EU Regulation 539/2001. Cyprus has been instrumental during all stages of procedures ... and especially during our presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2012.”

The EU Parliament voted for visa-free travel for UAE citizens to Europe in February, after which the UAE announced that citizens from all 28 EU member states would be able to cross its borders with ease.

Mr Zinon said the new rules are mutually beneficial. About 3,000 Emiratis visit Cyprus annually for tourism and business.

“Visa waiver means it will facilitate travel of UAE nationals to the EU. This will boost exchange of visits and people-to-people contacts,” he said.

“It will also help increase the volume of business and trade. Overall, this outcome is of great importance as it will create closer relations between the EU countries and the UAE.”

There are about 1,000 Cypriots living in the UAE, working mainly in the construction and trading industry. Many also work as pilots and aircraft engineers with local carriers.

Mr Zinon said their visit was a “milestone” as this was the first trip by a Cypriot president to the UAE for more than two decades. The president met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, on Tuesday.

“The visit is seen of particular importance, both in terms of symbolism and in terms of substance. The aim is to develop a dynamic relation between our two countries,” Mr Zinon said.

He added that his government has invited Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, on a trip to Cyprus.

“We believe that there is room for more cooperation in various fields of common interest such as tourism, education, health and energy, which will certainly prove beneficial to our people. We plan to increase the frequency of bilateral visits, at all levels, in all fields,” Mr Zinon said.

According to him, trade between the UAE and Cyprus hit €69 million (Dh350.8m) last year. The UAE imports halloumi cheese and durum wheat from the Mediterranean country.