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At the heart of the relationship is the EU-Cambodia Cooperation Agreement. A Joint Committee (JC) held every two years in Brussels and Phnom Penh allows the EU and the Royal Government of Cambodia to formulate recommendations and set priorities. The most recent, ninth JC took place in Phnom Penh in May 2016. Cooperation also takes place on the regional and international level through fora such as ASEAN and ASEM.
In 2015, the EU and EU countries paid out €138 million (US$ 156 million) in support of Cambodia's development. The EU is also committed to ensuring more effective aid and strengthening Cambodia’s leadership of its own development process.
The EU sees human rights as universal and indivisible. It actively promotes and defends them both at home and in relations with non-EU countries.
Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values of the EU. Embedded in its founding treaty, they were reinforced when the EU adopted the Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2000, and strengthened still further when the Charter became legally binding with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The Agenda for Change prioritises human rights, democracy and other areas of good governance in the EU's development cooperation. In Cambodia, the EU supports a wide range of human rights initiatives carried out by both Civil Society Organisations and the Government. These activities include capacity development for national human rights institutions, advocacy, protection, democratic development, civil society strengthening and support for vulnerable groups.
The EU promotes trade to drive development by keeping its markets open to exports from least-developed countries. As a Least Developed Country, Cambodia benefits from the most favourable regime available under the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences, namely the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. The EBA Scheme gives Cambodia duty-free access to the EU for exports of all products, except arms, weapons and ammunition, opening the door to the biggest single market in the world. In 2015, the EU was the prime export market for Cambodian products, with exports worth €4 billion USD, of which garments, footwear and textiles accounted for almost 80%. Exports of light manufacturing goods and rice are also rapidly expanding. The EU provides technical support and training to help Cambodia take advantage of the opportunities offered by international trade. The EU also supports Cambodia in the process of economic integration within ASEAN, drawing on the EU single market experience.
The EU-Cambodia relationship is much broader than trade and development. EU countries' Embassies and cultural institutions actively promote cultural exchange. The EU Delegation works alongside them to organise various events. Educational links are also important with both the EU countries and the EU, through the Erasmus+ programme, offering scholarships to study in Europe and other opportunities for scholars and higher education institutions. The Erasmus+ programme supports the establishment of partnerships between European and Cambodian higher education institutions for networking, research, scholarships, and curriculum development.
Six EU Member States have embassies or offices in Cambodia. The Delegation of the European Commission opened in 2002. In December 2009, it became the Delegation of the EU, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
Meetings between Ministers, Commissioners and Heads of Government supplement regular bilateral contacts between Cambodian officials and those of EU countries, the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS).
Political discussions between the EU and Cambodia also happen in multilateral fora such as ASEAN and ASEM. The first ever EU-ASEAN summit took place in Singapore in 2007, bringing together Heads of Government from both regions. Meanwhile the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) attended by Foreign Affairs Ministers, is the highest level of institutional dialogue and takes place on a regular basis. Please see attached the link to the most recent AEMM meetings.
The EU also participates in the ASEAN Post-Ministerial meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Both are held immediately after the annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. At the first, the general and economic situation of ASEAN and of EU-ASEAN relations are reviewed. The second is a forum to discuss security issues in the region.
The European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Southeast Asia and ASEAN visits Cambodia regularly. Members of the European Parliament's Sub-Committee on Human Rights visited Cambodia in March 2016. The European Parliament has sent members to act as observers at national elections and also passes resolutions on political issues relating to the Cambodian political situation. EU and Cambodian parliamentarians also interact through regular meetings between the European Parliament and the ASEAN Inter-parliamentary Organization as well as the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP).
A framework agreement on cooperation between the predecessor of the EU, the European Communities, and Cambodia was signed on 29 April 1997 and came into force on 1 November 1999, marking a new chapter in relations between the two parties.
The agreement focuses on economic and development cooperation. Respect for, and recognition by both parties of, democratic principles and human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also form an essential element.
Cambodia acceded to the 1980 EC-ASEAN Cooperation Agreement on 28 July 2000. Both sides are working on a number of projects designed to enhance trade and investment between the two regions and to promote mutual understanding.
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an informal process, an interregional forum for dialogue and cooperation, bringing together 53 partners: 51 countries and 2 international organizations (28 EU countries, the EU, Norway and Switzerland, 21 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat). The initial ASEM partnership commenced in 1996 with 22 EU-ASEAN partner states plus China, Japan, Korea and the European Commission. Cambodia joined in the enlargement round at the 5th Summit in 2004. The ASEM dialogue addresses political, economic and cultural issues, with the objective of strengthening the relationship between the two regions.
Cambodia, as a Least Developed Country, benefits from duty-free and quota-free access to the EU under the "Everything But Arms" scheme as part of the "Generalised Scheme of Preferences" (GSP). The exit of many of Cambodia’s competitors from GSP since its reform applicable from 1 January 2014 has provided additional export opportunities.
The EU is committed to fair trade and open markets. It is the top trading partner for 80 countries worldwide and the world’s largest trading partner. The EU’s success is inextricably bound up with the success of our trading partners, both in the developed and developing world. For this reason, sustainable development is central to trade policy. The development of trade - if properly managed - is an opportunity for economic growth. The EU therefore has a strong interest in creating conditions in which trade can prosper. Facilitating trade is also an important part of the EU’s strategy to foster development and reduce poverty.
Besides the 'Everything but Arms' initiative, Cambodia benefits from the granting of "regional accumulation". Unfinished textile products imported from some ASEAN countries and finished in Cambodia are considered of Cambodian origin, allowing Cambodia to more easily export garments produced with these materials to the EU.
Cambodia has successfully taken advantage of these preferences. The EU is the first export destination for Cambodian products. In 2015 exports reached a new record of €4 billion (a 34 % increase compared to 2014) concentrated in clothing and footwear (84.8 %), bicycles (7.7 %) and rice (4.2 %).
The EU is the largest donor of trade-related assistance in Cambodia. Support has contributed to simplifying export and import procedures as well as the implementation of an ambitious programme of customs automation. Meanwhile the EU supports the Royal Government of Cambodia's ‘Trade SWAp’, a more integrated framework for channelling Aid for Trade resources to enable pro-poor growth through Trade Development.
The Commission’s Export Help Desk is a free and user-friendly online service providing information on how to access the EU market: EU import requirements, tariffs (and preferences), customs documentation, rules of origin, and much more.
The ASEAN IPR SME Helpdesk is a European Commission co-funded project that provides European SMEs with free, practical, business advice relating to ASEAN IPR.
EuroCham Cambodia was founded in 2011. It promotes the interests of European businesses operating in Cambodia, facilitating the entry of European companies into the market and creating an extensive support network among corporate and individual members. EuroCham Cambodia is a member of the European Business Organisations network and founding member of the EU-ASEAN Business Council and thus well integrated into the South East Asia network of pan-European business chambers.
The EU is the world's largest provider of financing for humanitarian aid. Many of the EU countries directly provide humanitarian assistance. Within the European Commission, humanitarian aid operations are managed by its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, ECHO. ECHO operations include assessments of humanitarian needs in disaster areas as well as providing funds for goods and services such as food, shelter, medical provisions, water supplies, sanitation or emergency repairs. Disaster preparedness and risk reduction projects in regions prone to natural catastrophes are also among the life-saving activities financed through ECHO. ECHO's Regional Support Office based in Bangkok follows the development of humanitarian needs in Cambodia, carries out emergency assessments if the need arises, and monitors aid projects.
More detailed information on the European Commission humanitarian aid and civil protection in Cambodia can be found here.
In the early years, efforts focused on helping the country tackle the challenges of emerging from years of war: rebuilding infrastructure and communications, increasing agricultural production, relocating displaced persons, and clearing land of millions of land mines.
Over time, EU-Cambodia cooperation has evolved. EU cooperation in Cambodia is designed to support the Royal Government of Cambodia's policies, as reflected in the Royal Government's Rectangular Strategy and the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP). Poverty alleviation and meeting basic needs remains an overarching priority, which is furthered through initiatives on good governance, democratic participation and decentralization, human rights, rule of law, gender equality, land rights, education, vocational training, health, sanitation, rural development, agriculture, food security, environment and climate change as well as public finance management support and trade-related technical assistance.
EU funding is provided entirely in the form of grants. The European Development Cooperation Strategy for Cambodia 2014-2018 provides the basis for the EU Multi-Annual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2014-2020. The MIP identifies 3 sectors that the EU development cooperation will focus on: 1) Agriculture and natural resource management; 2) Basic education and skills development; and 3) Governance and administration which focuses support for Government reforms particularly on Public Finance Management, Sub-National Democratic Development, and Elections as well as including support for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC).
The MIP 2014-2020 allocates up to €410 million to Cambodia, more than double the financial support provided in the previous 7-year period. While the implementation of the MIP 2014-2020 started in 2015, support under the 2007-2013 MIP is continuing.
In addition to bilateral cooperation, Cambodia benefits from regional cooperation programmes that support ASEAN programmes. In 2014-2020, Cambodian civil society organisations will be able to bid for funds under the civil society organisations (CSO) and local authorities (LA) budgets as well as those under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
A new EU blending facility for the Asian region opened in 2011 (Asian Investment Facility – AIF), offering a possibility to top up development projects led by European financing institutions, in partnership with other financing institutions, governments, private sector or other development actors, with an additional EU AIF grant. Projects falling under AIF priorities for Cambodia are eligible for AIF funding.
Since 2014, Cambodia is also eligible for European Investment Bank (EIB) financing. The EIB is the bank of the EU and the largest supra-national borrower and lender in the world. Under the current mandate, the EIB is authorised to lend for financing operations supporting EU cooperation strategies in eligible countries, including in Asia, and complementing other EU programmes.
The EU is Cambodia's biggest development partner in terms of grant aid. EU donors currently active in Cambodia include the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the United Kingdom and the EU Delegation. In 2015, EU Member States and the EU paid out US$ 156 million in support of Cambodia's development agenda (source: database of the Council for the Development of Cambodia .
In 2006, EU donors in Cambodia established the EU Road Map for Increased Aid Effectiveness with the aim of supporting the rapid achievement of the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals, and specifically, sustainable poverty reduction.
In 2012 the EU Delegation and the EU countries present in Cambodia decided to prepare one common strategic document guiding all of their bilateral development engagements with a view to enhancing the coherence and impact of their development assistance. Switzerland also joined the process. The exercise resulted in the European Development Cooperation Strategy for Cambodia 2014-2018 which was developed in full consultation with the Royal Government of Cambodia, other development partners, civil society and the private sector. The first formal progress review took place in 2016.
(1) Agriculture/Natural resource management
Agriculture remains the livelihood base of the majority of the population, while poverty is most widespread in rural areas and among people belonging to ethnic minority groups. For the period 2014-2020, the EU has committed €144 million to this sector.
EU support aims at promoting the sustainable development of agriculture, including the promotion of livestock production and aquaculture, and enhancing productivity, modernisation and commercialization. Investment in rural infrastructure focuses on the improvement of living conditions of the poor and vulnerable households. Addressing nutrition and food security is also an integrated component in EU support to the agricultural sector. At the same time, the EU seeks to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources, including forests, coastal areas, the Mekong Basin and the Tonle Sap Basin, which play an essential role in Cambodia's agriculture.
The EU promotes a human rights-based holistic approach to land distribution and supports the Government in speeding up the implementation of land reform and in particular of inclusive land registration and communal land titling for indigenous people as crucial for the future development of Cambodia.
The EU is strongly committed to supporting education in developing countries as it plays an essential role in forging citizenship and democracy as well as reducing poverty. Three decades of conflict left Cambodia without a formal education system, with few teachers and a limited number of functioning schools. As early as 2000, the European Commission and a number of EU countries began to focus on the education sector by building schools, training teachers and helping the Ministry of Education to re-structure. In the early 2000's, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) launched a major overhaul of education, The Education Strategic Plan (ESP). Since 2003, the EU has supported this sector-wide approach through the use of budget support. An important share of EU support to the education sector is provided to the Royal Government of Cambodia through annual transfers to the national treasury in recognition of progress made in education and the management of public funds.
The current (fourth) programme- EU-Cambodia Education Sector Reform Partnership (ESRP) 2014-16 was signed in March 2014, extended and increased in December 2015. The total budget of this programme for the period 2014-2017 is €77.3 million. The programme allocates €68.5million to budget support and€7.8million to the phase 2 of the Education Capacity Development Partnership Fund (a multi-donor fund managed by UNICEF)
Within this programme, the EU provides support to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) to achieve the objectives of the Education Strategic Plan in terms of equitable access, quality and efficient management of the sector. This programme is expected to generate significant, sustainable, and nation-wide improvements in education, benefiting in particular the 3 million children in basic education.
(3) Governance and Administration
Public Finance Management
The Public Finance Management Reform Programme is one of the priorities of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (RGC) “Rectangular Strategy” for growth, employment, equity and efficiency in Cambodia. The programme aims to transform the public financial management system of the RGC toward international standards by 2025. The Reform's main objective is to ensure that public spending is in line with available resources, thus promoting macroeconomic stability. Strengthening Cambodia’s public financial management is an essential component in building confidence among donors to channel more aid through government systems in a coordinated manner.
The EU is committed to progressively increase the use of the RGC’s own systems for channelling support. The European Commission and Sweden (SIDA) pooled €20 million to support implementation of stage 2 of Cambodia’s PFM reform programme for the period 2012- 2016, and a further €30 million for the period 2017-2020. This support will mainly focus on enhancing the capacity of the Ministry of Economy and Finance and other ministries in implementing the Reform
Sub-National Democratic Development
Poverty reduction through sustainable and inclusive economic growth is still a challenging issue in Cambodia. Good governance, as a pre-condition to sustainable economic development, requires participation, enhanced information sharing, accountability, transparency, equality, inclusiveness and the rule of law. Two reforms remain crucial to the development of Cambodia: the Legal and Judicial reform; and the Sub-National Democratic Development (or decentralisation and de-concentration) reform.
The Sub-National Democratic Development (SNDD) reform provides a unique opportunity for increasing civic engagement. Within the governance sector the de-centralisation reform has received to-date the largest bilateral contribution from the EU. The EU has been supporting Cambodia's local governance reform through the 15-million EUR programme "EU Support to Sub-National Democratic Development" alongside contributions from Sweden and Germany. On-going support to de-centralisation and de-concentration builds upon the EU's previous Democratic Decentralised Local Governance project (DDLG) to which the EU contributed €10 million.
Support to the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
EU support to good governance, the rule of law and human rights in Cambodia also includes a political and financial commitment to promote international justice and the national reconciliation process in Cambodia. The EU has been supporting the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) since 2007 with a total contribution of $15.1 million to date. This has been complemented by bilateral contributions from EU Member States worth more than €36 million.
The EU has been providing substantial financial and technical support to the electoral process in Cambodia since its second National Assembly elections in 1998 as part of its global agenda to promote democratic processes in developing countries.
The EU is providing €10 million to support the electoral reform process in Cambodia. This support will include the purchase of voter registration equipment for the National Election Committee, technical support and support to civil society organizations.
Additional areas of intervention
Democracy and Human Rights
Human rights and democratisation issues are at the heart of the EU agenda, as outlined in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015). The EU has made human rights a central aspect of its external relations: in the political dialogues it holds with third countries; through its development policy and assistance; and through its action in multilateral fora such as the United Nations.
To implement EU human rights policy, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) was established in 2006. The EIDHR programme aims to support civil society initiatives and back their contribution to democracy.
Since 2003, the EU Delegation to Cambodia has funded about 72 projects with some 40 national and international NGOs under this programme for a total amount of €19.6 million (approximately $22 million). Those projects have been implemented throughout the country, including in remote areas, and aimed at the promotion of human rights, democracy and rule of law in Cambodia with particular focus on: indigenous people's land rights, elections, women's participation in politics, freedom of expression, independent media, juvenile justice and human trafficking.
In Cambodia the EU has supported various local development and governance projects through the Non-State Actors and Local Authorities (NSA/LA) programme by funding international and local NGOs as well as Local Authorities for a total amount of €14,5 million for 30 projects (7 of them implemented directly by Cambodian Local Authorities) aimed at enhancing the capacity of the local administration in the delivery of services to Cambodian citizens, supporting indigenous people's land security, agriculture and rural development, community livestock, forestry management, vocational training, primary health care and sanitation.
Trade and Private Sector Development
All of the trade-related assistance (TRA) that the EU provides to Cambodia forms part of the EU’s commitment under the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the global TRA programme for LDCs. Cambodia is benefiting from this fund to build trade capacity and promote the diversification and expansion of new export sectors (silk, fisheries). The EU is the largest donor of trade-related assistance in Cambodia. The successful Trade Development Support Programme (€11.65 channelled through a Multi-Donor Trust Fund with the EU as the main contributor) responds specifically to the needs of the Ministry of Commerce and other line ministries in trade policy formulation, regulation, trade facilitation, and capacity building. The Programme has contributed to key regulatory reforms, as well as a very ambitious programme for automating trade facilitation.
Future EU trade-related assistance will be provided through regional programme funds and will focus on strengthening Cambodia's regional integration, by ensuring Cambodia's commitments to ASEAN and WTO, and further improving trade facilitation.
Food Security and Nutrition
Cambodia has a high malnutrition rate, ranking 60 out of 104 countries on the global hunger index (2015).
EU support is currently provided under global programmes such FIRST and INFORMED. The EU-FIRST programme facilitates policy dialogue around food, nutrition security and sustainable agriculture. The EU-INFORMED (2016-2018) programme is supporting the Council for Agriculture and Rural Development to conduct the Integrated Food security Classification (IPC) assessment which will update Cambodia's food security website and assist Cambodia to use IPC products for decision-making. The EU concentrates its resources on food security in the fisheries sector by supporting poverty reduction in most vulnerable households.
Climate Change and the Environment
Cambodia is one of the more disaster-prone countries in the South East Asia region, subject to flooding and drought on a seasonal basis. Rising temperatures are likely to increase the variability of rainfall patterns and intensity of weather events. The most vulnerable provinces in Cambodia are Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri which have the highest concentration of indigenous people whose livelihoods are highly dependent on natural resources.
In 2007, the EU created a Global Climate Change Alliance with developing countries hardest hit by climate change. The overall objective of this alliance is to help developing countries increase their capacities to cope with the effects of climate change. It is also designed to ensure that the voice of developing countries is better heard in climate change negotiations.
The Cambodia Climate Change Alliance (CCCA) is an alliance between the Government, the EU Delegation, Danida and Sida with technical support from UNDP and UNEP. The CCCA is a comprehensive and innovative approach to addressing climate change and disaster risk reduction in Cambodia. On the one hand it aims at creating conditions in the form of capacity development and institutional strengthening to prepare for and mitigate climate change risks, and on the other to directly help vulnerable communities by enhancing their resilience to climate change and other natural hazards.
The EU is the largest contributor with €2,205,817. Through the CCCA the EU is co-financing 8 grants including for Climate Change Adaptation for Livelihoods of Rural Women and Climate Adaptive Livelihoods of Agriculture Community.
In parallel, the EU Delegation supports a range of smaller scale projects promoting the role of civil society, for example in the forestry sector. These projects aim at promoting more sustainable management of forests through a wide range of activities such as Community Forest Management and Livelihood Improvement (CFMLI) and protecting sustainable biodiversity in the Eastern Plains. The total value of such projects reached approximately € 2.4 million at the end of 2015.
Finally, the EU Delegation also coordinates closely with Cambodia on FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade). Cambodia has expressed an initial interest to be more engaged in FLEGT dialogue.
The EU believes that gender equality is essential for growth and poverty reduction. Women suffer disproportionately from poverty and its related ills, such as malnutrition, poor health and illiteracy. In Cambodia, through non-government organisations, the EU supports the Gender Strategic Plan 2014-2018 (Neary Rattanak IV) which focuses on economic growth and economic empowerment; access to social services and protection; and issues including women in public decision making and politics; and gender and climate change, green growth and disaster risk management.
The EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) for Cambodia 2016-2020 stresses the need for the full realisation of equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The objectives of the GAP retained as priorities for Cambodia draw from the priorities of the Royal Government of Cambodia's Gender Strategic Plan - Neary Rattanak 4.
The EU has supported 11 gender related projects in Cambodia with total funds of €4.5 million over the last 7 years. The main activities of these projects include empowerment of women through grassroots activism; gender sensitive approach and general understanding on gender issues; enhancing livelihoods for girls through advocacy, training and empowerment; addressing and awareness raising on violence against women; improving food security for households; support to female commune councillors; and justice for women in conflict with the law.
Promoting the inclusion of People with Disabilities
People with disabilities represent 1.4% of the Cambodian population. EU development cooperation is committed to ensuring full and equal inclusion of persons with disabilities and their families in EU initiatives for developing countries. The EU has supported seven disability related projects for a total budget of €4.6 million (equal USD 6.1 million) since 2007. The projects have been implemented by non-governmental organizations.
Joint Programming is the joint planning of development cooperation by EU development partners working in a partner country. It is a policy tool contributing to a stronger Europe and bringing together resources and capacities. Now, more than ever, the European Union, the Member States and other like-minded governments need to join forces, programme their development aid together and, eventually, develop a strategic and coordinated response to key challenges such as migration and climate change. Working closely together will enhance the EU's ability to decisively contribute to the partner country's national development plan and to support our partners in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. More information on how Joint Programming progresses in each partner country: capacity4dev.eu
Joint Programming laid the foundations for European partners to join forces to provide a response that was well coordinated with other development partners' support to Cambodia. The adopted "European Development Cooperation Strategy for Cambodia 2014-2018" includes a joint analysis and response that is aligned to Cambodia's national development strategy. It also defines an in-country division of labour among the European partners and presents indicative financial allocations per sector and per partner.
This Strategy reflects the importance that Europeans place on joint collaboration and partnerships as catalysts for achieving results and increasing the effectiveness of our development efforts. It is for this reason that the EU+ development partners' group active in Cambodia – the European Union and 8 EU Member States: the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom; plus Switzerland – have come together to produce a joint strategy which details joint priorities, planned programmes and a framework for monitoring results.
The Joint Strategy focuses on the following priority areas for European development cooperation:
In 2016, the 1st "Annual Monitoring Report for the period 2014-2015" was published taking stock of progress made. This report, together with its conclusions and recommendations, has provided a basis for an informed dialogue with the Royal Government of Cambodia and other stakeholders. The 1st monitoring report concluded that there has been positive progress in key reforms supported by the European partners through the programmes contained in the joint European Strategy. It also outlined the challenges that European partners saw ahead which were discussed in the various consultations, including with civil society and the Parliament. For example, the report noted that achievements in the governance reforms need to go hand in hand with the promotion of citizens’ rights and participation. The report also highlighted that strengthening the judiciary, land rights and sustainable management of natural resources will need to be further discussed in an open dialogue with national stakeholders to support inclusive and sustainable development processes.