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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.
The outlook for human rights and democracy in the Maldives is deteriorating. Media and civil society are constrained; freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are inhibited. The government has lifted the moratorium on the death penalty and, for the first time since 1953, the Supreme Court has confirmed a death sentence. There is also growing concern regarding the separation of powers.
The EU is the Maldives' largest export partner. Maldives exported Euro 88 million worth of products (primarily fisheries products) to the EU (2015 data) which represented more than 47% of its total exports.
The EU is Maldives' fifth largest import partner accounting for Euro 159 million worth of trade (2015 data) which represented almost 10% of its total imports. The EU was preceded by the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, China and India.
Considering overall trade (exports and imports), the EU is Maldives' second largest trading partner, following the United Arab Emirates. The EU accounted for Euro 295 million or 13.7% of total trade volume (2015 data).
The tourism industry of the Maldives remains its biggest foreign income earner. Tourist arrivals grew by 2.4 percent in 2015, reaching a total of 1.2 million. China remained the largest source of tourists in 2015 with 359,514 Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives. This represented a market share of 29.1 percent. Germany was the second largest market in 2015 with an 8.5 percent market share, followed by the United Kingdom (7.5 percent), Italy (5.3 percent), and India (4.2 percent).
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.
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.