Cambodia: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP debate

(Source: EEAS)

Speech delivered by Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen

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Madam President, Honourable Members of the Parliament,

The European Union has always maintained a clear stance on the crackdown against the opposition in Cambodia. Since the dissolution of the main opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party, we have worked with all relevant stakeholders, including politicians, civil society and the authorities to encourage the reopening of the country’s political and civil space.

Due to the lack of progress, despite our enhanced engagement, the European Commission decided in 2020 to withdraw some tariff preferences granted to Cambodia under the Everything But Arms arrangement.

We have continued to raise our voice against the shrinking of the democratic space, including at the Human Rights Council, where the EU has also co-sponsored resolutions on this issue.

The European Union has made clear that the Cambodian authorities must respect the rule of law and due process. At the end of 2021, several human rights defenders and activists were released from prison under court supervision and some new opposition parties have been allowed to register for the local elections next month.

The EU never stopped engaging with the government to discuss the political and economic aspects of our bilateral relations, ASEAN and regional issues. In March, we held the first Joint Committee after the withdrawal of EBA [Everything But Arms] preferences. The EU confirmed its openness to re-engaging Cambodia and to discuss the EBA regime if there is a substantial improvement on the issues of concern.

In view of the upcoming elections, Cambodia should take immediate action to re-open the political space in the country, and allow the participation of a credible opposition. In particular, Cambodia should provide a resolution of the judicial case against Kem Sokha, who continues to be denied justice and political rights.

The EU reiterates its call on the Cambodian authorities to take all measures to ensure democratic elections and initiate a process of national reconciliation through inclusive dialogue. We strongly believe that democratic inclusion and dialogue, including with civil society is key to lasting peace and stability.

Link to the video (starting at 21:55): https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-224289

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