On 22 June 2021, the Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia and the World Health Organization Representative Office to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore have launched a three-year programme to support the government of Malaysia in its COVID-19 response and preparedness for future pandemics.
To mark this important partnership, a virtual kick-off event was organised. The key areas of discussion were on the EU, WHO and Ministry of Health support to the COVID-19 response in Malaysia as well as the importance of global cooperation and solidarity as the foundation for sustainable recovery and better preparedness for the next health emergency. The EU and WHO released a joint press statement afterwards announcing a pledge of €1.7 million (RM8.7 million) to Malaysia, as part of the overall €20 million (RM100 million) programme for the South East Asia health pandemic response and preparedness project.
Fifteen Ambassadors of the EU and its Member States in Malaysia published an op-ed about what the EU is doing to close the global vaccination gap. Sharing facts and precise figures, they included some observations about the very important cooperation with the Malaysian partners.
On 1 July 2021, the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation enters into application. This means that EU citizens and residents will now be able to have their Digital COVID Certificates issued and verified across the EU. That said, the technical system had already went live and online a month ago. The aim of the certificate is to facilitate safe and free movement in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. The certificate will facilitate travel, helping to exempt holders from restrictions such as quarantine.
In Malaysia, the launch of the certificate and travel to the EU have sparked questions, particularly in relation to vaccines produced by manufacturers that have not been authorised by the European Medicines Agency. The EU Delegation to Malaysia released a press statement to clarify the issue, explaining that the certificate is not a compulsory document for travelling in the EU but simply a practical tool. Meanwhile, entry into the EU is in principle allowed to fully vaccinated persons with one of the vaccines authorised in the EU, including those produced in facilities not covered by marketing authorisation in the EU but it is up to EU Member States to decide which obligations may be imposed on incoming travellers.
On 6 August, the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell co-chaired via videoconference, together with Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, the EU-ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference. This high-level EU-ASEAN meeting is held each year on the margins of the annual ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial meeting. At the meeting, HRVP Borrell and the ASEAN countries reviewed progress in the Strategic Partnership and provided guidance on how to further strengthen cooperation on trade, security, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the press release here.
The 28th ASEAN Regional Forum was held afterwards on the same day via videoconference under Brunei Darussalam’s 2021 ASEAN Chairmanship. The EU and ASEAN released a joint statement on promoting the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.
On 17 July, through High Representative Josep Borrell, the EU commemorates the seventh anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 when 298 people of 17 different nationalities lost their lives. The EU reiterates its full support for all efforts to establish the truth, achieving justice for the 298 victims of the downing of Flight MH17 and their next of kin and holding those responsible to account.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected indigenous peoples globally. It has put a strain on their rights, in particular their equitable access to health-care, education, land and natural resources. It has further exacerbated the existing economic marginalisation and discrimination of indigenous peoples. In areas of tropical forests, economic interests often have prevailed when amending social and environmental laws, policies and safeguards.
On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9 August 2021), the EU celebrates the resilience and resourcefulness of indigenous peoples around the world. This year, the EU joins the United Nations in the call for a new social contract, where no one is left behind.
No country, no region in the world has been spared from the impact of COVID-19. The virus is exacerbating existing inequalities and has a disproportionate effect on refugees, internally displaced persons, vulnerable migrants and stateless persons.
On the occasion of World Refugee Day (18 June 2021), the European Commission and the High Representative released a joint statement announcing a new initiative, the “Lives in Dignity Grant Facility”, that seeks new forms of collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace actors to address the most challenging situations of forced displacement in the world. The first €12 million (RM60 million) of the €24 million (RM120 million) seed funding will focus on regions in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
EU Ambassador to Malaysia H.E. Michalis Rokas joined a closed-door session with Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, organised by EUROCHAM. The discussion revolved around challenges facing the nation, SOPs about Covid-19, and Governments’ strategy to vaccinate the country.
In a separate EUROCHAM event, the EU Ambassador also joined the Director of Health Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah’s briefing regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. After emphasising Team Europe’s renewed commitment to helping low and middle-income partners facing the pandemic and having provided flexible financial support, he said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has also confirmed and strengthened our choice in favour of multilateralism. The EU has played a pivotal role in creating the COVAX facility and we will continue advocating for strengthening and reforming the World Health Organisation, while avoiding any politicisation of science.”
The Ambassador continued his meetings with Malaysian leaders and met with Senior Minister for International Trade and Industry, YB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali. They discussed on the challenges the business communities are facing during the pandemic, the respective economic recovery plans and opportunities to expand the EU-Malaysia trade relations.
The EU P2P (Partner-to-Partner) Programme for Dual-Use Goods partnered up with the Strategic Trade Secretariat of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia once more for this training which strengthened synergies, cooperation and inter-agency processes between licensing and enforcement agencies. The virtual workshop increased the common understanding of the participants by looking into practical issues of implementing the Strategic Trade Act (STA) of 2010. It also provided examples from other ASEAN countries and EU member states.
Read the press release here.
As Europe and Southeast Asia pick up momentum towards recovery, albeit in a continuing uncertain context, the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR), with the support of the EU, launched the EU-ASEAN Economic Diplomacy Course: Free Trade Agreements & EU-ASEAN Economic Cooperation. The event brought together government officials from ASEAN countries and global experts to discuss the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the role of the EU-ASEAN partnership in building economic resilience and accelerating sustainable recovery. Held from 13-16 July 2021, the course underscores the importance of global trade as an indispensable force to address the COVID-19 related challenges. The EU and IDFR, later released a joint statement.
Read the event’s local news coverage here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified human rights and democracy challenges in many parts of the world. That is why the EU has placed human rights front and centre of its foreign policy. This is one of the main features of the adopted 2020 European Union Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World. While the world is confronted with unique challenges, the EU maintains its leading role in supporting human rights, democracy and rule of law, within its borders and across the globe.
Download the 2020 EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World here.
On 27 July 2021, EU Ambassador to Malaysia, Michalis Rokas, delivered a closing speech for the initiative by Project Liber8 to launch their public campaign, Advoc8 on the Road (High School Edition). They aim to create awareness among youth by providing platform for school students to discuss human trafficking in a safe and engaging environment. The launch was held in parallel with the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2021.
Drawing on the EU Anti-Trafficking Strategy adopted by the Commission on 14 April 2021, which is closely linked to the EU Strategy on Organised Crime (2021-2025), Michalis said, “While the priorities and measures of the strategy to fight organised crime also apply to trafficking in human beings, this strategy addresses the specific aspects of the crime of trafficking in human beings ... that trafficking in human beings is a serious and complex crime that mainly affects women and children. It generates enormous revenue for criminals, while inflicting enormous suffering on victims and imposing high costs on our society. We must not forget the toll on the victims and society. That is why the project of Advoc8 on the Road is important and strongly supported.”
Forests are an essential ally in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. They function as carbon sinks and help us reduce the impacts of climate change, for example by cooling down cities, protecting us from heavy flooding, and reducing drought impact. Unfortunately, Europe's forests suffer from many different pressures, including climate change.
On 16 July 2021, the European Commission adopted the New EU Forest Strategy for 2030, a flagship initiative of the European Green Deal that builds on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The strategy contributes to the package of measures proposed to achieve greenhouse-gas emission reductions of at least 55% by 2030 and climate neutrality in 2050 in the EU. Read more.
On 14 July 2021, the European Commission adopted a package of proposals to make the EU's climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Achieving these emission reductions in the next decade is crucial to Europe becoming the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and making the European Green Deal a reality. Read more.
On 28 July 2021, EU Ambassador to Malaysia, Michalis Rokas, officiated one of the activities organised by FRIENDSin their Virtual Intercultural Festival to brief on key initiatives the EU is working on in the Internationalisation of Higher Education. He shared the EU view on education exchanges as an affirmative action to improve livelihood, economic, social status of youth in developing countries like Malaysia. It was attended by 51 participants including our partners from Bhutan, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and as well as European partners from Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and Turkey. The FRIENDS project, or otherwise known as Furthering International Relations Capacities and Intercultural Engagement to Nurture Campus Diversity and to Support Internationalisation at Home, is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme under the European Commission.
In his opening speech, Michalis said, “For some years, the EU has also funded truly global mobility partnerships between European countries and other countries worldwide. So Erasmus+ partnerships exist between European universities and countries worldwide, including all the Asian countries represented at your meeting. Over the 2014-2020 period, these partnerships, together with our Erasmus Mundus joint master degree scholarships, have brought over 3,500 Asian students and staff to Europe every year, and Asian universities have hosted more than 2,000 Europeans annually.”
On 23 July 2021, the Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia organised a unique and interactive program called, 'Between The Lines Exchange Theatre' with several key partners, where more than 120 participants joined. In this creative area, the Delegation is facilitated by KLSP Exchange Theatre, an innovative online engagement that handles corporate training by presenting issues experienced in the workplace through performed scenarios. The online theatre played out scenes of challenges that young Malaysians new hire may face to collaborate effectively with his/her colleagues in a European company.
See below for some of the promotional posters used and a snapshot of the participants after the program concluded:
The World Wildlife Federation-Malaysia’s annual magazine, Green Heart featured the incredible efforts of women and youth groups in Sabah at the forefront of the initiative to elevate quality of life through entrepreneurship.
Women Association of Omadal Island (WAPO) won the Best Documentary film award during the Sabah Screen Festival 2019 for their documentary video highlighting potential alternative livelihood for conservation entitled, “Weaving for Conservation”. The concept of weaving for conservation was introduced by WWF-Malaysia in 2012 and has become an alternative livelihood for the women on Omadal Island. This activity has generated RM20,556.90 (€4,089) in 2019, an increase of 2.6 times compared to RM7,885.50 (€1,568) in 2018.
Meanwhile, two community groups have successfully been established as legal business entities; LA’NU and Po’On. LA’NU is an enterprise group of women from Banggi Island focusing on producing natural skincare products and Po’On is comprised of members from the Taritipan Youth Club, who aims to diversify their source of income through mangrove-based products such as stingless bee honey and insect repellents.
Download the e-magazine here.
Every year on 9 August, World Indigenous Peoples Day is celebrated to raise awareness on the rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world. Under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the EU continues to fund a number of projects for the Indigenous communities. The EU’s support in Malaysia is through PACOS Trust, a community based organization in Sabah, Malaysia. This year, the organisation held a national Indigenous Day Celebration as one of their activities under the project “Empowering indigenous peoples to access their rights and increase women in decision making process”.
PACOS Trust together with JOAS (National Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia), COAC (Centre for Orang Asli Concerns) and various indigenous communities in Malaysia organised a virtual celebration spanning 3 days (8-10 August 2021) with the highlight on the 9 August 2021. The theme for this year’s celebration is “COVID-19 and the Resilience of Indigenous Peoples” where it focused on the experiences and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples in dealing with COVID-19 as well as the need for the protection of Indigenous knowledge. The programme streamed live on PACOS Trust, JOAS & COAC Facebook page.