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Thank you Madame President, Honourable Members,
The European Union remains deeply concerned about the continuing deterioration of the political situation in Cambodia and the escalating repression of the opposition and civil society. Cambodia is heading towards increasing authoritarianism.
In recent months, the Cambodian government has taken action to stifle political opposition, to suffocate democracy. We have underlined that the decision of the Cambodian government on 16 November to dissolve the main opposition party – the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) - is a significant step away from the path of pluralism and democracy enshrined in Cambodia's constitution and supported over more than two decades by Cambodia's international partners including the European Union.
We reiterate that an electoral process from which the main opposition party has been arbitrarily excluded is not legitimate. The CNRP, won over 43% of the vote at the 2017 commune elections and 44.5% in the 2013 legislative elections. Its dissolution disenfranchises those voters.
The 1991 Paris Accords created binding legal obligations upon the parties, including the duty of the Cambodian government to maintain liberal multiparty democracy as well as to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. These commitments are enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution.
The European Union and its Member States have put and continue to put huge efforts and very significant resources into supporting the development of Cambodia. It is therefore very worrying to see over the last months a significant narrowing of the democratic space in the country.
On 20 November, High Representative Mogherini met with the Cambodian Foreign Minister, Prak Sokhonn, in the margins of the ASEM Ministerial meeting in Myanmar. She insisted on the expectation that the continued detention of the opposition leader, Kem Sokha, and the dissolution of the CNRP, would be swiftly reversed. The High Representative also recalled that the EU's development cooperation and trade preferences were reliant on Cambodia's respect for fundamental human rights.
We are currently assessing the situation in terms of development cooperation assistance. In this regard, the EU has decided to suspend its support to the National Election Committee (NEC).
The EU will continue to reaffirm its commitment to protect and to promote the universality of human rights whenever they are violated or questioned, whether inside or outside its borders. The principle of democratic inclusion and dialogue is key to lasting peace and stability.
We encourage the Cambodian government to find a way out of this impasse through a structured dialogue with the opposition. We will also continue to raise with the government the need to apply the law evenly and fairly to all, and the need to ensure that freedom of association, expression and due process are fully respected.
The respect for fundamental human and labour rights is also part of our trade policy and underpins the legal basis of our trade preferences.
Our development cooperation with Cambodia is long-term and any consideration regarding a suspension of cooperation would have to be carefully evaluated in terms of its impact; suspension of aid could be detrimental to the population.
On the temporary withdrawal of Cambodia from the Everything But Arms scheme (EBA), the Commission, in cooperation with the EEAS, is monitoring the situation in Cambodia to check whether the conditions for taking measures under Article 19 of the GSP Regulation are fulfilled.
The EU remains ready to support the Government of Cambodia in strengthening Cambodia's developing democratic systems.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I148166