Last Updated on Saturday, 22 July 2023, 0:20 by Denis Chabrol
President Irfaan Ali said at least five European Union (EU) countries have agreed to sponsor Guyana’s bid for Schengen visa-free travel.
The Head of State made the disclosure while interacting with the media during a site visit to the Eccles to Diamond four-lane highway that is currently under construction, on Thursday afternoon.
“In terms of the removal of the visa, you have to have sponsoring countries, and I’m very pleased to tell you that we have at least five countries that have agreed to sponsor us to begin the process within the EU itself. But there’s a bigger issue that we have to address, and this is our passports and what is required for future travelling,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Office of the President.
Currently, Guyanese must travel to Suriname or Trinidad for their Schengen visa appointments.
The President explained that for Guyana to be fully equipped to gain Schengen visa-free travel, the country’s passport must be improved and upgraded.
“You know biometrics and e-passport are very critical for global travellers. So, we have to now work expeditiously on having our system transformed so that we can have ease of movement and ease of travel.”
In addition to obtaining visa-free travel status, President Ali also noted that Guyana is working on having the Schengen visas processed more efficiently in Guyana. This, he explained, is an immediate need, and Guyana has received strong commitments from “at least three countries that are willing to work with us on having this done”.
SUCCESSFUL EU-CELAC MEETING
While President Ali had initial discussions on Schengen visa-free travel during his recent attendance at the European Union-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (EU-CELAC) Summit 2023, bilateral meetings with leaders of several EU countries have facilitated the advancement of the conversation.
The Head of State said that the Summit was “fantastic” and that Guyana was also able to provide strong leadership in critical areas, especially in the areas of forest and climate change.
“We’re working hard to position the forests on the agenda at COP28 and to take global leadership on this. Guyana would be hosting a side event at COP28 with the UAE, and we’re hoping that the EU will be a partner with that also.”
He explained that Guyana has already received commitment from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank and the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAF) to be part of the programme in which Guyana will present its leadership on the forest and a formula and strategy through which forests take a leading role on the climate change agenda.