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The EU and the Maldives have maintained very close cooperation over the past few decades. Diplomatic relations were established in 1983, with the Commission Head of Delegation in Colombo being accredited as non-resident Ambassador to the Maldives.
Since 2015, the Government of Maldives and the EU Heads of Missions have held an annual Policy Dialogue, co-chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ambassador of the European Union to the Maldives.
On 8 August 2019, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission paid an official visit to the Maldives. This was the highest level visit by the EU to the Maldives to date, and is proof of further intensification of the relations between the two partners.
The Delegation's priorities for the Maldives include support to strengthen respect for civil and political rights, reinforce the rule of law, and promote the political representation and economic empowerment of women.
The Maldives renewed its commitment to consolidate democracy, ensure good governance, and promote respect for human rights during the fourth annual Policy Dialogue between the Maldives and the EU held on 11 March 2019. The holding of peaceful and democratic Presidential and Parliamentary elections in September 2018 and April 2019 respectively were further welcome steps.
In light of these positive developments the European Council decided to revoke the framework for restrictive measures against the Maldives that it adopted on 16 July 2018. The framework was adopted following a deterioration of the political and human rights situation in the Maldives in the first half of 2018.
The EU is one of the the Maldives' largest export partners. Maldives exported EUR 220 million worth of products (primarily fisheries products) to the EU (2018 data) which represented more than 33% of its total exports.
The EU is one of the Maldives' largest import partners as well, accounting for EUR 81 million worth of trade (2018 data) which represented almost 10% of its total imports.
In order to explore further avenues for enhancing trade and facilitating investment, a Business Roundtable will be organized in 2019.
The tourism industry of the Maldives remains its biggest foreign income earner. Tourism statistics show that European tourists consistently make up nearly 50% of all arrivals, with over 500,000 European nationals visiting the country each year.
Since 1981 the EU has been engaged with the Maldives, providing development assistance and prioritizing the archipelago’s unique set of development issues, with a special focus on its environmental imperatives.
The EU is providing support for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation. An archipelago of low-lying islands, the Maldives has been identified as one of the world’s most vulnerable regions in the face of rising sea levels and climate change. With its highest regions standing at an altitude of about one metre, much of the Maldives could be submerged in ocean within the next century. The EU is committed to assist the country to mitigate the effects of this phenomenon, which could see the coral islands disappear and become the first true victim of global warming, unless current climate trends are reversed.
The EU has allocated a total of EUR 6.5 million to support the Government of the Maldives in the development and implementation of its climate change strategy and action plan. Through these development initiatives, the EU hopes to build a climate resilient economy and society through adaptation to climate change as well as mitigation, for a carbon neutral development path.
In June 2019, the EU signed its first Financing Agreement of EUR 5 million with the Government of Maldives, to support the Government in implementing its Nationally Determined Contributions. In addition, a EUR 45 million loan to assist projects in renewable energy was signed between the Government and the European Investment Bank (EIB) in July as a further demonstration of EU's commitment to step up cooperation in this area
The Maldives Climate Change Trust Fund was launched with the support of the EU, the Australian Agency for International Development, World Bank and the Government of Maldives. The project covers climate mitigation, wetlands conservation and coral reef monitoring and solid waste management in the Ari Atoll.
In light of the efforts underway in the Maldives to step up and coordinate the prevention of violent extremism and the countering of terrorism, the EU has allocated EUR 2.5 million for the Maldives to strengthen its preparedness and response capabilities.