The Liberian Government has asked the European Union for the issuance of Shengen Visas here to reduce the difficulties and costs currently associated with travelling to EU countries.
Liberia’s Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan announced Tuesday that the government intends to strongly discuss with EU partners the possibilities of issuing Schengen Visas in Liberia in his opening comments at the Third Liberia-EU Political Dialogue held in Monrovia.
“As we set out to discuss other important issues, the Liberian Government side intends to strongly discuss with our EU partners the possibilities for the issuance of Schengen Visas in Liberia as this would reduce the difficulties and costs currently associated with travelling to EU Countries,” Mr, Ngafuan said.
The Schengen Area in Europe comprises 26 countries that have agreed to allow free movement of their citizens within the area as a single country; and the Schengen Visa is issued by the appropriate authorities to the interested party for visiting or travelling in and within the Schengen Area.
Of the 26 countries under the Schengen agreement, 22 are part of the EU, while 4 are part of the European Free Trad Area or EFTA.
The Schengen area covers the majority of European countries, except the United Kingdom and other countries, including Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland.
At least other non- EU states like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein do belong to the Schengen area and cherish the free movement policy.
A Liberia-EU Dialogue, held under theme “governance, security and justice”, covered thematic areas such as the long-running issue of the Schengen Visas issuance in Liberia; UNMIL draw-down and Liberia’s plans for transition; Universal Periodic Human Rights Review; and updates on the Ebola recovery and stabilization plan.
Mr. Ngafuan sees the EU-Liberia Dialogue as a major milestone in EU-Liberia relations since its launch approximately three years ago by Dr. Nick Westcott, Managing Director for Africa in the European External Action Service.
To date, Mr. Ngafuan said, the EU has contributed more than 1.2 billion euros to the overall fight against Ebola to which, he said, Liberia has significantly benefited.
Reflecting on key events preceding the Dialogue yesterday, the Liberian Foreign Minister recalled a notable signing of the Forest Governance and Trade Agreement between Liberia and the EU, the April 2014 EU-Africa Summit and the High-level International Conference on Ebola in March this year. At which time Liberia and the EU signed a 279 million euros development package under the EU’s National Indicative Program or NIP for the eleventh European Development Funding in Liberia.
Ngafuan praised the EU for being supportive in Liberia’s priority areas of development agenda, citing infrastructure, security, human rights, agriculture, energy and education.
He said the EU’s response to the Ebola outbreak has been massive, referencing significant visits made here by EU during the peak of the Ebola crisis including the EU Ebola Response Coordinator Commissioner Christos Stylianides’ visit, among others.
For her part, EU Ambassador to Liberia and Head of EU delegation, Madam Tiina Intelmann, said the EU wants to see its relations with Liberia as comprehensive as possible, expressing the hope for a “very great discussion” touching on governance, justice and security.
She recalled the EU’s relentless support to Liberia even during the Ebola crisis here, saying ‘we have not been sitting idle’ in the Ebola crisis and moving forward.
By Winston W. Parley