New EU envoy arrives as EBA decision hangs in the balance

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Newly appointed EU Ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno talks with King Norodom Sihamoni after presenting her credentials at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. EU Delegation via Facebook

Now that the newly appointed EU Ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno has landed in the country, she will be able to see for herself the reality in the Kingdom even as the possible withdrawal of the ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) agreement awaits its conclusion, analysts say.

The EU delegation in Cambodia said Moreno had presented her credentials to King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace on Friday.

It said Moreno was deeply honoured to be received by His Majesty and to be officially accredited as the EU Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“It is a privilege for me to represent the EU in Cambodia, a country I have known and where I have seen progress over the years.

“This is also the result of our partnership in development and I hope to contribute to strengthening our partnership and relations,” said Moreno. She was cited by her delegation on the EU delegation’s Facebook page on Monday.

Spanish national Moreno was appointed the EU Ambassador to Cambodia in July. She replaced outgoing British diplomat George Edgar who completed his mission in September.

Moreno did not respond to The Post’s questions sent by email on Tuesday.

The EU launched an official withdrawal procedure for the EBA trade preference for Cambodia on February 12, citing the alleged violation of labour rights, land grabbing, and political repression as reasons.

In mid-August, the EU announced it had completed its investigation and its report was expected to be sent to Cambodia within three months from the date of the investigation’s closure.

Barring any procedural changes, the decision should be revealed to the Kingdom no later than next week. However, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Koy Kuong said Cambodia had yet to receive the EU’s report.

An unnamed source with knowledge of the issue confirmed that a publication of the findings made by EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom had not yet been shared.

Once Cambodia receives the publication, officials will have one month to comment. The Post’s source said Cambodia’s comment would be received by the new EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Newly appointed EU Ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno presented her credentials to King Norodom Sihamoni last Friday, as the Kingdom awaits the European body’s decision on its EBA fate. Photo supplied

“As far as I know, it is less clear than ever what the new commission will propose to the EU Council of Ministers. There are political changes in Europe and it is dangerous to speculate,” the source said.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay thinks Moreno could not do more than her predecessor George Edgar to resolve the EBA issue.

The Cambodian government, he said, needed to put in more effort to help the EU uphold its human rights principles for a favourable decision on the EBA withdrawal issue.

On the other hand, Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said on Wednesday that Moreno would see real development in Cambodia which was different from what has been presented to the EU by an opposition group.

What Moreno might pay attention to is the transparency on the allegations regarding democracy and human rights, he said. Touch said future cooperation between the EU and Cambodia should not put political and economic pressure against each other.

“I think the EU ambassador has to tell the bloc what is good about Cambodia. This is very different from what an opposition group says,

“If she is impartial, she could make the EU member states understand more about Cambodia and encourage investment into the Kingdom,” Touch said.

“We hope that the EU will become our good partner in the tourism and agriculture sectors, and form a smart city which would make this small country attractive to investors,” he added.