The Ambassador of the European Union to Maldives and Sri Lanka Denis Chaibi has stated that he is hopeful for the future with growing collaboration between the Maldives and the EU, revealing that negotiations are now underway for a partnership and cooperation agreement between Maldives and the European Union.
In an exclusive interview with Raajje TV, European Union's Ambassador to the Maldives and Sri Lanka Denis Chaibi touched down on aid from EU member states to the Maldives during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, in addition major prospective deals between the two bodies.
Ambassador Chaibi asserted that the EU had been a strong supporter of the Maldives since the beginning of the pandemic. He detailed that a grant of three million euros issued by the European Union had been had been invested in the the World Health Organization and the tourism industry in Maldives. He also revealed that EU member states had, through the European Investment Bank, issued a loan of 20 million euros to address major socio-economic issues in Maldives. He stated that the subsidized loan had been assigned to SMEs through banks in the Maldives, to combat the economic downturn caused by Covid-19.
In detailing measures to adapt around difficulties caused by the global pandemic, the Ambassador revealed that it was a priority of EU states to restart travel to the Maldives. Ambassador Chaibi stated that EU projected the travel industry to restart over the summer, with a number of ideas being discussed to counter the prevailing effects of Covid-19. He revealed that a Green Pass could be a possibility, which would essentially be a standard of digital vaccination cards, issued with details and permits required for EU residents to travel among specific countries in the pandemic.
Ambassador Denis Chaibi revealed this would be one of the major initiatives from the western world in restarting the global travel industry following the onset of Covid-19, and stated that the policy initiative would bear significance for travel between Maldives and EU states.
Noting that the European Union was the biggest contributor to the COVAX facility, the Ambassador assured that Maldives would be receiving additional batches of Covid-19 vaccines in the coming weeks. In addition to this, the EU Ambassador to the Maldives Denis Chaibi stated that a future multi-annual indicative programme would see the Maldives benefit from a number of grants from the EU. He stated that benefits from the grants would be used in investing in green recovery for the next seven years.
When prompted on the pressing situation of trade between EU member states and the Maldives, Ambassador Chaibi stated that Maldives was simply considered "too wealthy" to receive preferential tariffs for trade with the EU. He added that a number of discussions had been conducted with successive governments over the years, with the most recent ministerial meeting held in 2019. With the EU absorbing 25 percent of the Maldives fish exports, the tariff is considered a major barrier to expanding the Maldives market for selling fish products in EU states. However, the Ambassador stated they were working to see through which instruments the Maldives could be given a more favorable tariff, with not much progress on the matter.
In concluding his exclusive interview with Raajje TV, EU Ambassador to the Maldives Denis Chaidi announced that the EU had taken a major step in furthering their relationship with Maldives. He revealed that EU member nations had agreed at their last Foreign Affairs Council to launch negotiations for a partnership and cooperation agreement with the Maldives. He stated that the agreement would be a more stable legal basis for further cooperation between EU and Maldives, and added that it was a formal recognition of the Maldives by the European Union, not just as an important nation within the Indo-Pacific region, but also as a critical player in the fight against climate change.
During the interview, EU Ambassador to the Maldives Denis Chaibi described the ground-breaking negotiations as a token of support in post-Covid recovery, and expressed hopes for the development of a much closer multi-lateral relationship between the Maldives and the European Union in the coming years.