Top EU official lauds Gayoom for reforms in Maldives


Male : As Maldives braces for multi-party elections next year, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has lauded President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for taking “significant steps” towards establishing a “liberal and democratic system” in the Indian Ocean island nation.

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In a letter to Gayoom, Barroso welcomed political developments in the Maldives during 2006 and highlighted the strong bilateral relationship that exists between the European Union and the Maldives, said a press statement by the Maldives government.

The top EU official was replying to a letter written by Gayoom in which he provided a broad overview of major developments in the Maldives last year and re-emphasised the government’s commitment to oversee further democratic progress this year according to a roadmap unveiled by him nearly four years ago.

These initiatives over the course of the year represent significant steps towards establishing a lasting, liberal and democratic system for all the people of the Maldives, Barroso said in his letter to Gayoom.

He also offered the EU’s support for the process of democratic transformation in this picturesque atoll nation that has been ruled by Gayoom, Asia’s longest serving leader, for nearly three decades and said that the EU was ready to provide technical assistance ahead of the 2008 elections.

Gayoom’s roadmap for democratic reforms in Maldives, which was made public in November 2003, include a free press, an independent judiciary, an empowered parliament, a brand new penal code, a human rights commission and the drafting of a new constitution for accountable and transparent governance in the country.

“The government warmly welcomes the EU’s continued interest in developments in the Maldives,” Chief Government Spokesman Mohamed Hussain Shareef said while commenting on Barroso’s letter.

“The EU is one of the Maldives’ most important international partners across a range of areas including governance, environmental protection, tsunami recovery, and economic and social development,” Shareef said.

“We are pleased to note that our bilateral relationship continues to go from strength to strength,” he added.

Stressing on the “privileged relationship” between the EU and the Maldives, Barroso reiterated the European Commission’s determination to help the Maldives recover fully from the Asian tsunami that struck in December 2004, wreaking massive devastation in the Maldives.