EU ambassador expresses hope for Kingdom retaining EBA status

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New EU ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno (left) shakes hands with National Assembly president Heng Samrin at the National Assembly on Tuesday. NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

New EU ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno met with National Assembly president Heng Samrin and expressed her interest in helping Cambodia retain the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement.

Moreno paid a courtesy call on Samrin at the National Assembly on Tuesday on her first day in office.

During the meeting, she expressed the EU’s stance in strengthening bilateral relations and cooperation, Samrin’s cabinet chief Keo Piseth said.

“The new EU ambassador expressed her hope for Cambodia to retain its access to the EU’s EBA. She also said she would try to help,” Piseth said.

He said Samrin supported Moreno’s appointment as the new EU ambassador to Cambodia, and that the bloc was an important development partner for the Kingdom.

The EU, Samrin said, had significantly contributed to Cambodia’s development, and he expressed hope that Moreno’s appointment would push Cambodia-EU relations to the next level.

“At the same time, Samdech [Heng Samrin] thanked Moreno for supporting Cambodia, especially concerning preferential treatment that had encouraged trade and investment in the country,” Piseth said.

Moreno also paid a courtesy call with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday, where she expressed surprise and admiration for Cambodia’s development, said a post on the prime minister’s Facebook page.

“She [Moreno] said Cambodia is developing and is walking on the right track in promoting sustainable development [to cope with] climate change, natural resource protection and accelerating trade development.

“She was also proud of Cambodia and vowed to continue the partnership with the country and support [its] sustainable development.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen, in response, thanked the EU for supporting Cambodia, particularly their assistance in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, and other sectors.

“We should stand by the fruits of our cooperation in the past, and try to seek ways on how we can continue our partnership and promote ties between EU and Cambodia,” the post read.

The president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Sok Touch, said on Tuesday that Moreno might have realised that the Kingdom was heading in the right direction, and if so, the EU should continue to provide its support.

Touch said that if the EU were to suspend Cambodia’s access to EBA, the bloc would be humiliated once it sees Cambodia survive by itself.

He said that EBA withdrawal was the EU’s way of pressuring the government to help the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and its president Kem Sokha, who is charged with treason.

“Now the world is entering a new era of globalisation. If the EU pushes us away, Cambodia would need to find a superpower that would help strengthen the country politically and economically.

“We accept that we are a small country and not strong [enough]. So we would need the support of a superpower.

“The US and the EU should look at history. If they tie the string too tight, it would push Cambodia away. We have a saying which goes like this: ‘When a boat sinks, everything nearby is a ship, even it is a pillow or a fruit,’” Touch said.

Moreno could not be reached for comment by press time.

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