EU-Maldives: 5th Senior Officials Meeting takes place in Malé

EU-Maldives: 5th Senior Officials Meeting takes place in ... Image 1


03 June 2024

The Fifth Senior Officials Meeting between the Maldives and the European Union (EU) was held on 2 June in Malé, Maldives.

The EU and the Maldives confirmed their mutual interest to further strengthen and deepen the mutually beneficial cooperation rooted in shared values and commitment to the principles of the UN Charter and international law. The Maldives and the EU reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate in various sectors, including democratic reforms, the green transition, climate change mitigation and adaptation, good governance, human rights, and security.

The EU congratulated the Maldives on the well organised major elections, the Presidential Elections held in September 2023 and the Parliamentary elections held in April 2024. The Maldives thanked the EU for sending an Elections Observation Mission (EOM) during the Presidential election and welcomed the final report. The EU and the Maldives discussed that the implementation of the recommendations received in the EOM report would further strengthen the electoral process and help consolidate democracy in the Maldives. 

As a result of the Maldives’ membership of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States (OACPS), the Maldives is currently in the process of completing the domestic legal procedures to sign and ratify the Samoa Agreement. This is a step towards enhancing the relationship between the Maldives and the European Union, as well as towards regional integration. It is a precursor for the Maldives to negotiate its accession to an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between a regional group of OACPS and the EU, which provides for a tariff-free access to the EU market.

During the meeting, the Maldives also focused on the ongoing initiatives to improve the governance system, build economic resilience, strengthen democracy, promote the rule of law and to ensure protection of human rights through implementation of significant changes to the legal and justice sectors. The Maldives also elaborated on plans to integrate human rights protection and promotion into the development strategies, particularly to enhance protections for vulnerable groups, including women, children, and persons with disabilities. The EU and the Maldives emphasised the importance of ensuring space for a vibrant civil society, and upholding freedom of expression and opinion as key foundation of democracy.

The Maldives expressed gratitude to EU for implementing projects on green recovery, good governance, and other various support measures through the EU’s Multi-Annual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2021-2027. In this regard, the Maldives noted with appreciation, the generous assistance through the EU-UNDP partnership agreement “Accountability and Integrity Matters – AIM Project”, valued at EUR 5 million (MVR 74.8 million), aimed at strengthening the rule of law and enhancing transparency and integrity within relevant institutions.

The financing agreement on “Improved Biodiversity Management to support a Blue Economy in the Maldives,” was signed on the sidelines of the Fifth Senior Officials Meeting. This programme of EUR 6.5 million (MVR 97.2 million) under the MIP focused on biodiversity protection and sustainable management of natural resources, which will build the local capacity to manage multiple bioreserve areas.

The Maldives also stressed on the significant challenges in waste management and ensuring energy security and sought support from the EU to establish comprehensive and sustainable waste management solutions and securing funds to develop renewable energy systems capable of providing 33% of the nation’s electrical needs in the next five years. In that regard, the Maldives expressed appreciation for the ongoing support provided through the Global Gateway strategy notably the Sustainability Energy Development Programme implemented by EIB. This operation is a EUR 45 million EIB loan guaranteed by the EU budget, which enables Maldives to reduce diesel usage and bring down the cost of electricity generation, enhance the use of renewables, provide affordable power to unserved and under-served businesses and residences, and reduce CO2 emissions.

The Maldives recognised other Global Gateway support that increases resilience to pandemics and the efficiency of its health sector with a EUR 18.5 million EIB loan equally covered by an EU guarantee to establish a modern national health laboratory and expand regional hospitals on atolls with infectious disease wards.

Furthermore, it was noted that other programmes funded by the EU including the “Support to Implement the National Determined Contributions Related to Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Maldives” (EUR 4.85 million) and the “Prevention of Marine Litter in the Lakshadweep Sea – PROMISE” (EUR 3.7 million) are progressing well.

The meeting took place against a growing concern about the devastating consequences of climate change and extreme weather patterns in Asia and the Pacific, which increasingly put the Maldives and their people especially at risk. Both parties acknowledged the increase of harmful extreme weather patterns, especially in regions that are already particularly vulnerable. They also agreed that the world needs to deepen and accelerate climate action to avoid run-away climate change, while at the same time stepping up climate financing for adaptation to protect people, property, and livelihoods.

The EU and the Maldives reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the existing cooperation in the multilateral fora. The Maldives emphasized the significant strides made during SIDS4, hosted in Antigua and Barbuda from 27-30 May 2024, including the adoption of the “Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS” unanimously adopted by all Member States, which outlines sustainable development goals for SIDS over the next decade and identifies the support required from the international community to achieve them. The Maldives reaffirmed the confidence in the EU to align assistance to SIDS, with the adopted agenda and continue to be an invaluable partner to the Maldives. The EU and the Maldives will continue joining forces to promote the just and inclusive green transition and support the implementation of global commitments. They will work closely in preparation of the upcoming UN Summit of the Future. Likewise, they reaffirmed commitment to work together on promoting human rights in multilateral for a, including through the Human Rights Council.

The EU and the Maldives remain committed to the global fight against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and will continue their strong bilateral cooperation in this domain. The EU and the Maldives welcomed the results achieved during the 28th session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), and discussed the need to continue joining forces to ensure  the sustainable management of fish stocks in the Indian Ocean.

They both noted the critical importance of security in the region and the important role that Maldives plays due to its geographic location. The EU and the Maldives explored avenues to further enhance the ongoing security cooperation, including the maritime security domain with the active participation of Maldives in the EU funded Critical Maritime Routes Indo-Pacific (CRIMARIO) that offers to countries IORIS – a secure platform for communication and coordination at the national and regional level, with satellite data, thus strengthening maritime domain awareness and allowing for coordinated responses to incidents. Another area of ongoing security cooperation is the EU funded UNODC implemented project “Support to addressing the risk of terrorism and to increasing security in the Maldives”.

Bolstering the people-to-people ties has been an important call from both sides, with the Maldives restating its request for visa free travel for Maldivian nationals to EU member states. The EU informed that the Maldives’ request for visa-free travel would be addressed when the next review of visa lists takes place. The Maldives welcomed the decision taken by the Council of the European Union in November 2023 to initiate the digitalization of the Schengen Visa procedure, noting that it would ease the visa process and make it more accessible and cost effective for Maldivians.

The Fifth Senior Officials Meeting between the Maldives and EU was co-chaired by Fathimath Inaya, Foreign Secretary, and Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and Pacific at the European External Action Service.