The First Senior Officials Meeting between the Maldives and the European Union (EU) was held on 9 February 2020 in Malé, Maldives. The Senior Officials Meeting is a new mechanism for consultations established during Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid’s visit to Brussels in June 2019 to enhance cooperation between Maldives and the EU through yearly exchanges at the level of senior officials.
The Meeting gave evidence to the strengthened bilateral relations between the two partners since the Maldives renewed its commitment to consolidate democracy, ensure good governance, and strengthen the rule of law following the Presidential elections in 2018. The Maldives and the EU reiterated the importance of deepening ongoing cooperation and forging stronger ties.
Under the leadership of the new Presidents of the European Commission, the European Council, and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, the European Union is ready to take on an ambitious agenda and promote cooperation with partners all over the world, including in the Maldives. In particular, the European Union will continue to support the Maldives’ efforts to strengthen democracy, promote and protect human rights, and further socio-economic development. The European Union also reconfirmed that it is exploring avenues to support the Maldives in its judicial reform and anti-corruption efforts.
Coinciding with the Meeting, the EU launched today a new project to support the Maldives in its efforts to counter-terrorism and prevent violent extremism, under the. €2.5 million (MVR 43 million) allocated for EU-Maldives security cooperation. The project launched today will be implemented jointly with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and local stakeholders.
Both the European Union and the Government of Maldives reiterated their interest to step up cooperation on global challenges such as climate change and environmental issues. In December, the EU adopted the European Green Deal, pledging to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and to work with partners to tackle the challenges of climate change. The European Union highlighted the Financing Agreement of €5 million (MVR 85.8 million) to support the Maldives to implement its Nationally Determined Contributions, and the €45 million (MVR 771.6 million) loan by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support renewable energy projects signed in 2019 as a demonstration of EU’s commitment to step up cooperation in this area.
Recalling that they are partners in trade and investment, both the Government of Maldives and the European Union agreed to continue to facilitate trade and investment by European companies through the Business Roundtable initiative. The Government of Maldives reiterated its request to the EU to consider granting duty free access for tuna products from the Maldives.
The EU acknowledged the efforts deployed by the Maldives to complete the consolidation of the Maldivian systems to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and trusted that the upcoming technical mission to the Maldives would confirm the constructive cooperation in this area and ascertain that the EUs initial concerns have been addressed.
The thematic areas covered during the inaugural Senior Officials Meeting included Governance, Democracy, Human Rights, Rule of Law; Prevention of Violent Extremism and Counter-Terrorism; Economic and Trade Cooperation; Sectoral Cooperation in areas such as fisheries, environment, taxation reform, Schengen Visa facilitation, education, social development; and Regional/International Cooperation on issues such as climate change. At the Meeting, the Government of Maldives also reiterated its request for visa free travel for Maldivian nationals to travel to EU Member States with the view of strengthening existing ties between the Maldives and the EU.
The discussions were co-chaired by Ahmed Khaleel, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Maldives and Ms Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and Pacific, European External Action Service.
During her visit, Deputy Managing Director Pampaloni also made Courtesy Calls on His Excellency the President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, and Speaker of the Parliament, His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed, and held meetings with civil society, political parties, and members of the diplomatic community.