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Ministry hosts European EBA fact-finders ahead of talks

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An EU delegation holds a meeting with Interior Minister Sar Kheng in March 2019. Hong Menea

Ministry hosts European EBA fact-finders ahead of talks

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation hosted a preparatory meeting with a European fact-finding mission and representatives from various ministries on Tuesday after welcoming the delegation on Monday.

A team from the European Commission and the European External Action Service is in Cambodia for talks regarding the EU’s “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement.

A source said both sides met on Tuesday morning to confirm the European team’s schedule, with various meetings to be held with different ministries.

He said the government intended to meet the EU’s requirements regarding the EBA.

Such an important visit required the best organisation, he added.

Spokespersons for relevant ministries and NGOs confirmed the dates they would meet the European delegation.

The team would meet NGOs on Wednesday and with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on Thursday, they said.

It was due to meet with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on Friday.

The delegation was to travel to Kampong Speu on Saturday and have wrap-up sessions on Sunday and Monday.

George Edgar, EU ambassador to Cambodia, declined to provide details of the delegation’s trip, saying he would summarise what had been discussed at the end of the visit.

The EU started the formal EBA withdrawal procedure on February 12, citing “serious human rights violations and a backsliding of democracy” in the Kingdom.

Soeung Sen Karuna, spokesperson for rights group Adhoc, said he was pessimistic regarding the withdrawal of Cambodia’s access to the EBA as so little had been done to meet the EU’s demands.

“The government now and again rejects the EU’s claims about human rights violations. Such denials are unlikely to bring positive benefits for the Kingdom. If the government does not accept the truth, we are concerned Cambodia will lose EBA access,” Sen Karuna said.

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