Second Senior Officials Meeting Between EU and Maldives Confirms Commitment to Strengthen Relations

The second Senior Officials Meeting between the European Union and the Maldives was held on 10 September 2021 in Brussels. The Senior Officials Meeting was established in June 2019 with the objective of enhancing cooperation between the EU and the Maldives through yearly exchanges.

The EU and the Maldives welcomed the very positive momentum in the relations, as highlighted by a large and growing bilateral agenda, and reaffirmed their willingness to further strengthen the relationship between the people of the EU and the Maldives, including working together in the context of the EU Strategy on Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. As a strong signal of this commitment, the EU and the Maldives welcomed the 19 April 2021 Council decision to launch the negotiations on an EU – Maldives Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, and agreed on the next steps in advancing these negotiations.

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The European Union and the Maldives recalled the significant steps taken over the last year to enhance and deepen cooperation in a number of areas of strategic importance for both, notably green recovery, climate change, good governance, judicial reform and security. The Maldives also thanked the EU for its timely assistance following the outbreak of COVID-19, through a EUR 3 million grant to strengthen the health sector and assist in economic recovery efforts. The EU stressed its commitment to provide continuous support for actions in these priority areas and announced that a bilateral financial allocation for the Maldives will be made available as part of the Multi-annual Indicative Programme for the coming four years, to support the above aims.

With regard to security, the Maldives updated the European Union on progress in the investigation of the 6 May attack on Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and noted that the EU support for counter-terrorism activities in the Maldives has been particularly pertinent in this context. The EU stressed that supporting the Maldives in combatting terrorism and violent extremism is among its priorities. The EU and the Maldives agreed to explore additional opportunities to cooperate on enhancing counter-terrorism measures and countering violent extremism in the future.

The EU has expressed its appreciation for the commitment reiterated by the Government of the Maldives towards consolidating democracy, upholding and promoting human rights, strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption. The EU welcomed the progress made in preparing the new judicial reform and anti-corruption efforts. The two sides also noted that the recent signature of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance on Tax Matters was an important step in tax good governance. The EU also stressed that a fully empowered and resilient civil society, in all its diversity, is a crucial component of any democracy. The EU expressed its continued readiness to support the Maldives in these efforts.

Both the European Union and the Maldives confirmed that stepping up cooperation on global challenges such as climate change and environment is among their top priorities. It was agreed that recovery from the global COVID-19 crisis should be used as a chance to rebuild the economies in a sustainable manner. The EU informed of its recent actions to enhance its climate ambition, including climate neutrality by 2050 and the increased 2030 targets of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990. The EU also noted the significance of its recently launched Blue Economy Agenda. The Maldives confirmed its commitment to taking ambitious action to ensure a sustainable, low-carbon and climate resilient development and emphasized the need for scaled up climate financing to achieve this development. The EU and the Maldives agreed on the importance of the environment in all fora and noted in particular that the upcoming UN conferences – the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC, the 15th Conference of the Parties on Biodiversity and the launching of negotiations for a global agreement on plastic at the UN Environmental Assembly in February 2022, and the Second UN Ocean Conference to be held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2022 – will present vital opportunities for the international community to make ambitious, meaningful commitments. It was agreed to cooperate closely to advance the climate change agenda in both bilateral and multilateral settings.

The EU and the Maldives also discussed on cooperation in the area of fishery, with particular regard to the sustainable management of fish stocks in the Indian Ocean through the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and combatting IUU fishing in the region. The EU expressed its willingness to have a new session of the dialogue on IUU fishing by the end of this year. The EU congratulated the Maldives once again on the election of Foreign Minister Shahid as the 76th President of the UN General Assembly. The EU and the Maldives agreed to expand their partnership in the multilateral domain and work closely together on a number of mutual priorities in the UN.

The EU and the Maldives concurred on the importance of working to further enhance trade relations and agreed to continue to facilitate trade and investment. The Government of the Maldives reiterated its request to the EU to consider granting duty free access for sustainably sourced tuna products from the Maldives. 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 Ms Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and Pacific at the European External Action Service and Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, Foreign Secretary of the Republic of Maldives.

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