During his recent visit to Athens (11 June 2013), the UAE Foreign Minister, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said in a statement to the Greek newspaper "Ta Nea":
"It is with considerable pleasure that I am visiting Greece once again this week, to discuss ways in which our two Governments can work to promote further development of the already-strong relations between our two countries. It is now nearly forty years since the United Arab Emirates and Greece established diplomatic relations in 1975 and, in the decades that have followed, our links have grown steadily, not just at a government-to-government level, but also in terms of bilateral trade and investment and between our two peoples.
Over the last few years, particularly since the visit by Greece's President to the UAE in 2010, the growth of those ties has accelerated. Memoranda of Understanding have been signed on political consultations, on tourism, on co-operation in financial markets and on a general exchange of expertise, along with other agreements on civil aviation and the avoidance of double taxation. The first, very successful, meeting of the UAE-Greek Joint Committee was held early last year in Athens, coinciding with the UAE - Greece Economic Forum, which looked at ways of stimulating investment flows.
Nearly 100 Greek companies are now operating in the Emirates, with a growing number of Greek citizens opting to live and work in our thriving economy. We welcome them and are confident that they, like so many other communities, will make a valued contribution to our development. Emiratis, too, are coming to know Greece better. Thanks to regular flights to Athens by Etihad and Emirates, thousands of UAE citizens now visit Greece each year, taking the opportunity to learn something about the hugely important contribution that it has made to human knowledge and to global civilisation.
We in the UAE believe that there is enormous potential to expand the co-operation between our two countries in a wide range of fields. There is, for example, scope for more direct investment by UAE institutions, whether governmental or private, in the Greek economy. In return, perhaps there are opportunities for Greece's world-renowned shipping industry to play a larger role in the continued growth of the UAE's maritime trade sector, a fundamental element of our economy.
Issues such as these have been on the agenda in my discussions. Others have included regional and global issues where the UAE and Greece share mutual interests. In the past, we worked together during conflict in the Balkans. Today, we are both deeply worried about the deteriorating situation in Syria. The civil war is now in its third year, with tens of thousands of people having been killed and millions made homeless, with worrying indications that the conflict is now threatening the stability of adjacent states. Both Greece and the UAE are near-neighbours of the Middle East. It's natural that we share concerns about the security and stability of the region and, of course, about the humanitarian tragedy that is now unfolding.
On such issues, as well as in our bilateral relations, I am confident that there will be increasing co-operation in the years ahead, as our mutual friendship develops. An important component of that will be the links between our two peoples built by visits in both directions, something that can be promoted by enhancing the ease of movement between our two countries.
Greek citizens, along with most Europeans, are granted free 30-day visas upon arrival to the UAE. The UAE is asking that its citizens be granted similar access to the countries of the Schengen Area, in recognition of the excellent relations between the UAE and Europe, and of the significant economic contribution of Emirati activities on the continent. Too often, Emirati citizens are stopped at European borders and turned away because of unclear, complex, and restrictive visa-regulations.
In the coming weeks, the European Union is expected to make an important decision on the expansion of the list of countries that are granted visa-free access to the Schengen Area. For over two years, the Government of Greece has publicly, and repeatedly, expressed its view that the UAE should be added to that visa-free list. We are grateful for that support.
English text provided by Emirates News Agency.
See the Greek text here (Ta Nea, 11 June 2013):