EU and Maldives hold 4th Senior Officials Meeting

Ahmed Khaleel, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs with the EU delegation during the Fourth Senior Officials Meeting between Maldives and European Union. | Photo: Gunnar Wiegand/ Twitter

The Fourth Senior Officials Meeting between the European Union (EU) and the Maldives was held in Brussels on 13 June.

The EU and the Maldives expressed their mutual interest in further strengthening their cooperation, which is built on shared values and a commitment to the principles outlined in the UN Charter and international law.

The Fourth Senior Officials Meeting was co-chaired by Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and Pacific at the European External Action Service, and Ahmed Khaleel, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

The EU commended the Maldives on its accession to the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and warmly welcomed the country as a signatory to the new EU-OACPS Agreement. This agreement is expected to enhance the partnership between the EU and the Maldives and promote regional integration.

The Maldives and the EU discussed the possibility of the Maldives joining the OACPS’ Eastern and Southern African Group’s interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. This agreement would provide the Maldives with tariff-free access to the EU market, including for tuna products. Concrete steps were discussed to facilitate this accession in the coming months.

The EU emphasized the significance of upholding democracy, protecting human rights, strengthening the rule of law, and combating corruption. It reiterated its support for the Maldives’ efforts in consolidating democratic reforms and implementing necessary changes, particularly in the justice sector. The EU and the Maldives recognized the crucial role of civil society, freedom of expression, and opinion in upholding democracy, especially in light of the upcoming Presidential elections in September.

Both the EU and the Maldives agreed to continue their close cooperation in the United Nations and other relevant multilateral forums. They aimed to address global challenges such as peace and security, sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity loss, water pollution, and plastic pollution.

Additionally, they reaffirmed their commitment to promoting human rights in multilateral fora, including the Human Rights Council.

Under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP), the EU discussed its support for the Maldives’ key development priorities, including the green transition, climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity protection, and circular economy. The EU also reiterated its commitment to promoting good governance, judiciary reforms, and security.

As a step in this direction, a Financing Agreement worth €5 million was signed during the Senior Officials Meeting to support the enhancement of the rule of law and the reduction of corruption in the Maldives.

The EU and the Maldives explored avenues to strengthen their security cooperation, particularly in counterterrorism, preventing violent extremism, and maritime security.

As trade and investment partners, the EU and the Maldives expressed their intention to expand their economic cooperation. They discussed ways to adapt their Business Roundtable to the new context created by the Maldives’ accession to the OACPS, aiming to attract European investors and investments to the Maldives.

Both parties were committed to combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and pledged to continue their strong bilateral cooperation in this area. They recognized the need for improved cooperation and coordination to ensure the sustainable management of fish stocks through the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.

The EU and the Maldives welcomed the agreement on an implementing agreement for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regarding Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, also known as the “Treaty of the High Seas.” They were dedicated to promptly ratifying and implementing the UNCLOS implementing agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction.

During the meeting, the EU and the Maldives addressed the Maldives’ request for visa-free travel for Maldivian nationals to EU Member States. The discussion acknowledged the ongoing efforts to strengthen relations and promote greater connectivity between the EU and the Maldives. The request for visa-free travel would be considered during the next review of visa lists.