The vote to exempt Qatari citizens from Schengen visas was put on hold in December following the ongoing European Union corruption scandal.
Qatar rocketed to the 55th position on a global ranking for visa-free travel, according to a new data release.
With a score of 99 for visa-free travel, Qatar has moved up two positions from its 2022 standing of 57th. The year 2020 saw Qatar achieve its highest score, standing at 54th overall.
The order is based on the number of the 227 global destinations that Qatari passport-holders can visit without a prior visa.
The Henley Passport Index, which is based on exclusive and official data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), identified the world’s most potent passports for 2023.
Japan topped the list for the fifth consecutive year, with 193 visa-free destinations. At 192 visa-free locations, South Korea and Singapore are tied for second place.
“Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup provided an unparalleled opportunity to market the small Gulf country to a global audience and the World Bank anticipates Kuwait’s growth to accelerate to 8.5% alongside a strong performance in the non-oil sectors,” said Robert Mogielnicki, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
Analysts predict that Kuwait and Qatar could sign a visa-free agreement with the EU in 2023, which will significantly raise both countries’ Henley Passport Index scores. Such a move would mean citizens of those nations will be able to travel to all 27 EU member states without a visa.
Despite the fact that Asian nations continue to dominate the index’s very top, the growing passport strength of Gulf nations has been noted as a crucial trend for the upcoming year.
No new development have been made in the exemption of Qatari citizens from the Schengen visa, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced last week, after an outdated report was circulated on social media.
MOFA Spokesman Majed Mohammad Hassan Abdullah Al Ansari confirmed the circulating information was based on previous developments, and that there has been no further update since then.
The last update on Qatari citizen’ exemption for Schengen visa came on 2 December, when the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) approved the proposal.
However, the EU’s plan to allow visa-free short-stay travel for Qatari nationals was struck by a corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament.
MEPs in Strasbourg were expected to vote in early December to allow nationals of both countries to travel without a visa to the EU for 90 days, providing they have a biometric passport.
The LIBE approval was considered the final step from the European Parliament, which would have been followed by deliberations in a tripartite committee representing the Council of the European Union, the commission, and the parliament to further set the text of the Schengen visa exemption agreement before it is signed and implemented.
However, that was put on hold after Belgian prosecutors charged Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili and three others with corruption as part of a major investigation into an alleged illicit influence campaign by Qatar.
Doha has vehemently rejected the claims since the scandal first emerged last month.
While the investigation is still ongoing, members of the European Parliament already voted to suspend Qatari representatives’ access to its premises.
A diplomat at Qatar’s EU mission told Doha News at the time that the decision “will negatively effect regional and global security cooperation, as well as ongoing discussions around global energy poverty and security.”