Eang Sophalleth, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s assistant, yesterday said European Union Ambassador Carmen Moreno praised the government’s achievements in sustainably developing the economy during a meeting with Mr Hun Sen at the Peace Palace.
“Ms Moreno congratulated and expressed appreciation over the Kingdom’s development,” Mr Sophalleth told reporters after the meeting. “She said Cambodia is on the right track in regards to sustainable development, climate change and natural resource management and sustainable trade.”
“She said these things were achieved due to peace and stability in the Kingdom,” Mr Sophalleth said. “She said peace and stability are prerequisites for Cambodia’s future, for sustainable development, as well as for Cambodia’s young generation.”
He said Mr Hun Sen congratulated Ms Moreno over her appointment as EU ambassador and welcomed her to the Kingdom.
Mr Sophalleth also said Mr Hun Sen requested Ms Moreno to strengthen the relationship between Cambodia and the EU.
“He thanked her for valuing development in Cambodia,” he said. “Mr Hun Sen also expressed gratitude to the EU for assisting the Kingdom, especially with the [Khmer Rouge Tribunal].”
Ms Moreno’s placement as ambassador comes amidst a review of the Kingdom’s Everything-but-arms trade status, which allows preferential access to the EU market.
The Kingdom’s EBA status is being reviewed by the European Commission due to perceived democratic and human rights setbacks following the Supreme Court decision to dissolve the former opposition CNRP in 2017.
The EC will make a final decision on whether the Kingdom will retain its EBA status by February.
The EU has been demanding the government to “restore democracy and the rule of law, and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
This is perceived as interference by the government and Mr Hun Sen previously said he is prepared to lose the EBA status to maintain the Kingdom’s sovereignty.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday said the words used by Ms Moreno during her meeting with Mr Hun Sen were “diplomatic”.
“I think the words she used were diplomatic, which is to only say positive things about Cambodia,” Mr Phea said. “In general, relations are not better yet though her words do reflect the EU’s recognition of the Kingdom’s development and economic growth.”
“The EU has been participating in the development of the Kingdom in the past decades, but if they remove the Kingdom’s EBA in the near future, I believe their previous efforts will mean nothing and they will no longer be influential in Cambodia,” he added.