EU waives visas for Brits despite Gibraltar row

The law allows British visitors 90-day trips to the Schengen passport-free zone. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2019

EU waives visas for Brits despite Gibraltar row

  • Britain is due to leave the European Union, perhaps as early as next week
  • The law allows British visitors 90-day trips to the Schengen passport-free zone

BRUSSELS: European Union lawmakers approved a law Wednesday that will allow Britons visa-free visits even after a “no deal” Brexit, despite a furious dispute over the status of Gibraltar.
The European Parliament’s justice committee approved the text of the law that already had the backing of member states and should now be formally confirmed.
Britain is due to leave the European Union, perhaps as early as next week, but the law allows British visitors 90-day trips to the Schengen passport-free zone.
Implementation will depend on Britain according EU citizens reciprocal rights, but it has said it will do so and the principle of the law has broad support.
Nevertheless, the text itself triggered a bitter row in Brussels, after member states — at Spain’s urging — referred in a footnote to the draft to Gibraltar as a “colony of the British crown.”
The United Nations does legally list Gibraltar as a “non-self-governing territory” under colonial rule, but Britain insists it is part of “the UK family” and that its citizens freely voted to remain British.
Britain’s decision to leave the EU has revived controversy over Spain’s long-standing claim on the territory, against the backdrop of Spanish elections.
But with Brexit day looming, and lawmakers rushing to complete preparations, EU leaders acted to elbow aside the British MEP at the head of the justice committee.
This allowed a Bulgarian colleague to nod through the text under protest, and lawmakers approved the law by 38 votes to eight, all but ensuring its passage.
On Monday, the law’s “rapporteur,” British MEP Claude Moraes, was forced to step aside after EU leaders concluded that he had a conflict of interest.
Members protested this amounted to an attack on parliament’s prerogatives, but Moraes’ Bulgarian colleague Sergei Stanishev nevertheless steered the law through, arguing that “April 12 is coming.”
British Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton, a committee member, reacted angrily.
“The EU likes to speak the language of self-determination and democracy, but the EU’s justice committee has voted to ignore that today,” he tweeted.
“No-deal Brexit legislation on visas just passed. The text falsely asserts that Gibraltar is a colony.”
But a leading Spanish MEP, Esteban Gonzalez Pons, seized upon the law as a diplomatic victory for Madrid.
“Spain has obtained fundamental support from the European institutions in the dispute over Gibraltar by considering this territory a colony,” he argued.
“The mention of Gibraltar as a colony will be fundamental in attempting to resolve the dispute over this territory in a post-Brexit scenario.”
Brexit itself will not change the status of Gibraltar, but Madrid has been keen to establish that it will retain a veto over any future agreement between Britain and the EU that touches on the territory.


Families grieve after Kabul wedding blast

An Afghan man mourns during the funeral of his brother after a bomb exploded at a wedding hall killing 63 people and injuring 200 others. (Reuters)
Updated 19 August 2019

Families grieve after Kabul wedding blast

  • Bride’s relatives, members of music band among victims of Daesh attack

KABUL: Mirwais Elmi’s special night soon became a bloodbath after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the hotel hall where his wedding ceremony was taking place, killing more than 63 people and injuring 200 others in Kabul on Sunday. Elmi and his bride, who were in separate areas of the venue, survived the blast. The explosion took place just before dinner was to be served to the nearly 1,000 guests who had gathered in the southwest of the city.
The local Daesh affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack Speaking to a private TV channel on Sunday, a shaken Elmi was unable to describe the carnage that took place.
“I am not a groom today, my family, my friends are all in grief,” Elmi, who is in his early 20s and works as a tailor, said.
He added that he never thought “such an incident would happen during my wedding party.”
As survivors buried victims of the attack, an infant’s milk bottle and an invitation card could be seen near one of the hotel’s walls, badly damaged by the blast.
The attack comes as the US and Taliban close in on a peace deal which would lead to the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, nearly 18 years after the Taliban were ousted. The group immediately distanced themselves from the attack and strongly condemned it.
Elmi’s father-in-law lost 14 members of his family, while another man lost three of his sons, four nephews and five of his aunt’s grandchildren, according to survivor accounts.
“My family and my bride are in shock, they cannot speak. My bride keeps fainting. I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again,” he said. All five members of the wedding’s music band were killed. The groom and bride’s families, like many of those attending the ceremony, belonged to poor families.  
None of the guests were government officials sought by Daesh or other militant groups.

Government leaders live behind heavily protected compounds, drive in armored vehicles and have their families living abroad, but we ordinary Afghans are suffering routinely.

Ghulam Hussien Nasiri, Lawmaker

Many of the victims were children and young men. The hotel had no guards and guests were not body searched, according to survivors.
Shi’ite cultural centers and an anti-government protest have all recently come under attack, but Sunday’s wedding blast was the first of its kind, evoking a reaction from President Ashraf Ghani. He blamed Daesh for the incident. “I strongly condemn the inhumane attack on the wedding hall in Kabul. My top priority for now is to reach out to the families of victims of this barbaric attack. On behalf of the nation, I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were martyred. “The Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide a platform for terrorists,” he tweeted.
Ghulam Hussien Nasiri, a lawmaker, said the attack exposed the government’s weakness.
“Government leaders live behind heavily protected compounds, drive in armored vehicles and have their families living abroad, but we ordinary Afghans are suffering routinely,” he told Arab News.