Maldives-EU Relations

Brussels certainly deserves its unofficial title as the 'capital of Europe'.

Home to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, this Belgian city also hosts the world's largest press corps, all manner of NGOs, trade associations, numerous diplomatic missions and embassies as well NATO, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.

With the EU representing 27 Member countries with a total population of just under 500 million the EU’s political voice carries substantial weight. In addition to this the EU provides development support to the Maldives both in technical and a financial sense. Maldivian fish exports to European Union countries, and maintaining the current tariff-free access they enjoy, is also another important facet to the Maldives-EU relationship.

The European Commission, the EU’s “civil service” and instigator of legislation, employs over 30,000 staff covering all manner of policy areas such as trade, environment, external relations and development. The Maldives Mission to the EU meets and interacts regularly with the Commission in particular its "DGs" for Trade, Climate Change and Environment.

Topic areas currently being engaged include trade policy, post the January 2011 graduation of the Maldives from LDC status and the potential impacts on exports to the EU market; climate change and the adaptation and financial impacts on the Maldives; development assistance; political changes and reform; and election assistance and monitoring.

In addition to contributions to the Global Environment Facility, the UNDP and the Lome Convention among others, Belgium donated $7.15 million bilaterally for various initiatives and projects in SIDS in 1998.

The European External Action Service (EEAS), the defacto EU Diplomatic corps and incorporating EU Member States' representatives, is the EU's external mouth piece on foreign policy issues. The EEAS's Asia and Trade representatives meet and discuss regularly with the Mission's representatives.

Finally, the European Parliament, counting 785 elected members, has gained in power through recent revisions of the EU treaty. It has significant input into a large proportion of EU legislation. Complimented by an active Secretariat as well as the members' own staff, the Parliament is based predominantly in Brussels with regular monthly plenary visits to Strasbourg, France.

Representatives from the Maldives Mission attend on a constant basis, inter alia, the discussion meetings held by the Delegation to the Countries of South Asia, chaired by British MEP Jean Lambert and the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Trade, Development and Environment respectively.

Maldives-EU Trade Relations

The Maldives is highly dependent on imports, and generate therefore foreign exchange, importing nearly four times what it exports, with the result that its trade deficit last year accounted for roughly half of its GDP. The EU is one of the Maldives’s main trading partners. In 2002, the Maldives imported around Euro 40 million of goods from the EU (mainly machinery), whilst the EU imported around Euro 38 million of Maldives goods (mainly of textiles and fish).

Despite this trade imbalance, the Maldives economy had made strong economic progress over the past two decades, as a result of which the UN graduated the Maldives from its status of Least Developed Country (LDC) to Developing nation. This graduation came into effect on 1st Janaury 2011, after a transitional period accorded by the UN. Although the Maldives was initially very proud to have been honoured with this new title, the Tsunami - which is estimated to have set back development in the Maldives by around 20 years – has somewhat dampened its expectations.

One of the key implications for the Maldives on graduation is that it was due to no longer benefit from the EU’s tax free regime of “Everything But Arms” which applies to LDCs. Following a series of key meetings between Maldivian and EU stakeholders, a three year extension to the EBA scheme was extended until 31st December 2013. The Maldives welcomes this support, and looks forward to continuing dialogue on viable and sustainable options following the eventual expiry of this extension.

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