On the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, paid an official visit to the Maldives on 8 August 2019.
This visit of the High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini is the highest level visit by the EU to the Maldives to date, and is proof of the intensification of the relations between the two partners since the Maldives renewed its commitment to consolidate democracy, ensure good governance, and strengthen the rule of law following the election of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in September 2018.
High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini met with President Solih and the Minister of Defence Uza. Mariya Ahmed Didi. The High Representative also visited the People’s Majlis (Parliament) and addressed the members of the Parliament.
During the visit, High Representative /Vice-President Mogherini held official talks with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid where they reviewed existing bilateral cooperation programmes between the Maldives and the European Union and discussed global matters of mutual interest.
Minister Shahid expressed appreciation of the Government of Maldives for the contribution made by the European Union to the sustainable development of the Maldives. High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini reiterated the European Union's readiness to continue to support the Maldives in its efforts to consolidate democracy and further socio-economic development, as well as in its contributions to addressing global challenges.
In light of the efforts underway in the Maldives to step up and coordinate the prevention of violent extremism and the countering of terrorism, High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini announced the allocation of €2.5 million (MVR 43 million) for the Maldives to strengthen its preparedness and response capabilities.
Minister Shahid and High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini underscored the importance of working closely on issues relating to climate change and environmental degradation both bilaterally and at multilateral fora. In this regard, Minister Shahid expressed appreciation for the Financing Agreement of €5 million (MVR 85.8 million) signed between the EU and the Maldivian Government in June to support the Maldives to implement its Nationally Determined Contributions. In addition, a €45 million (MVR 771.6 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 High Representative reaffirmed the commitment of EU to support the Maldives' efforts to consolidate democracy and ensure good governance, notably in the justice sector and in the fight against corruption. Through ongoing support to civil society, the EU has also been supporting the Maldives to strengthen local governance. In addition, the EU is considering support to the People's Majlis through an EU Global Project to Strengthen the Capacity of Parliament. Finally, the EU is identifying Maldives' needs in the area of cybersecurity through the EU Cyber Resilience for Development project.
Minister Shahid and High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini discussed the European Union Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia, which aims to better connect Europe and Asia through transport links, energy networks, digital networks and people-to-people connections, and agreed to deepen their contacts in this field. The European Union and the Maldives share an interest in upholding the rules-based international maritime order, benefiting unhindered trade and peaceful coexistence in the Indian Ocean and beyond. In the context of the EU-South Asia Aviation Partnership Project, which aims to enhance relations between South Asian and European institutions in the field of civil aviation and improve aviation safety across the entire South Asia region, the High Representative/Vice-President reiterated the EU’s support for the reform of the Maldives' Civil Aviation Act and Accident Investigation Act.
Following up on Minister Shahid's meeting with European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, in June, the aim to organise a Business Roundtable in the Maldives in the coming months was reaffirmed, in order to explore further avenues for enhancing trade and facilitating investment as well as promoting tourism and sustainable economic development. Minister Shahid reiterated the Government's request for the EU to consider granting duty free access for fisheries products from the Maldives.
High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini noted the large number of Europeans tourists visiting Maldives and highly commended the warm hospitality accorded to them. Minister Shahid reiterated Government of Maldives' desire to welcome tourists from all EU Member States, which has contributed immensely to the Maldivian economy. Further, Minister Shahid requested visa free travel for Maldivian nationals to travel to EU Member States with the view of strengthening existing ties between the Maldives and the EU.
Recalling the importance of fisheries for the Maldivian economy, and while noting recent positive steps by the government in its discussions with the Commission, High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini underlined the importance for all countries to meet their responsibilities as flag, coastal, port and market States in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Minister Shahid and High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini reiterated the importance of intensifying the ongoing cooperation and forging stronger ties between the Maldives and the European Union and confirmed the decision to further enhance and structure bilateral ties through yearly meetings at senior official's levels.