European Commission Vice President Josep Borrell Fontelles on Sunday told Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn at the 14th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Madrid that “more efforts are needed” on improving rights and democracy in the Kingdom if it wishes to save its Everything-but-arms trade status.
“I met the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia Prak Sokhonn on the sidelines of ASEM. We talked about the possibility of a withdrawal of trade preferences,” Mr Fontelles said on Twitter on Sunday night. “Efforts are still needed to improve the situation of human rights and democracy.”
The EC is currently reviewing the Kingdom’s preferential trade status, which could lead to a possible suspension in February if the EC deems not enough has been done to address human rights and democracy.
The EU has been demanding the government “restore democracy and the rule of law, and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms”, referring to the dissolution of the opposition party and crackdowns on civil society and press freedom in 2017.
Koy Kuong, spokesman at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen last week reiterated that the Kingdom will not fold to EU demands, noting the government cannot interfere in the judicial system to have charges dropped against Kem Sokha.
“If they want to cut it, let them cut it,” Mr Hun Sen said. “It is your right to do so, we have no choice. We cannot follow your concerns. Sorry.”
The ASEM meeting ended yesterday and Mr Sokhonn is expected to return to the Kingdom today.
In a letter to Khmer Times yesterday, Mr Fontelles, who is also ASEM chairman, said the EU wants to have strong relationships with Asian countries.
“I will conduct EU foreign policy with realism and a strong sense of partnership. I want to work closely with our Asian partners on key priorities,” Mr Fontelles said.