Amid global challenges, particularly the Covid-19 pandemic, the bond between Cambodia and the EU has impressively deepened. Now, the EU is not merely a trading ally as it is also a beacon of post-war support for Cambodia.
This growing bond was celebrated when foreign minister Prak Sokhonn met outgoing EU ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno.
Sokhonn acknowledged Moreno’s instrumental role during her tenure, fostering a strengthened relationship.
“Our partnership covered diverse sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, and even landmine clearance. These have been cornerstones of Cambodia’s socio-economic development,” he said.
Moreno, who has facilitated aid from the EU amounting to a significant €499 million ($543 million) for pandemic relief, also praised Cambodia’s 2022 ASEAN leadership.
Vann Bunna, a political researcher, illuminated the intricate relationship dynamics, emphasising the economic interdependence between Cambodia and the EU.
He said the EU, with its vast market, provides a substantial outlet for Cambodian exports.
In return, the EU draws strategic support from Cambodia on various global stages.
However, despite the positives, Bunna identified potential snags. Differing stances on human rights and democracy, he said, could lead to friction, especially with a new Cambodian government on the horizon.
“Given the differences, the forthcoming government might face challenges aligning with the EU,” he said.
Still, Bunna expressed a cautious optimism, hoping future interactions would be steered by mutual economic and social interests.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, presented a broader perspective.
While he recognised the critiques the EU occasionally has for Cambodia, he contended that some might be more about strategic posturing than genuine concerns.
Offering a future-forward view, he remarked: “Both parties have consistently shown a commitment to nurturing their relationship. Their collaboration reflects a blend of mutual respect, understanding, and an aim to balance global influences.”
The Cambodia-EU relationship is not just about numbers or trade figures. It is also a testament to diplomacy, understanding and resilience, he added.
As both entities anticipate the 12th Joint Committee Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the stage is set.
They are not only looking to strengthen existing ties but also to explore newer avenues of collaboration, echoing the sentiments of the “Joint European Development Strategy 2021-2027”.
This journey, though dotted with challenges, holds promise, symbolising hope in an often uncertain world.