Diplomacy Politics

MEPs ‘BREAK VISA RULES’ in Maldives ahead of controversial election

The Maldives’ ambassador to the European Union, Ahmed Shiaan, wrote to Antonio Tajani to express his dismay over the actions of a group of three MEPs.

He claimed they and others travelled to his country ahead of its September 23 presidential election on tourist visas.

However, they were then alleged to have “presented themselves as though they were an official delegation of the European Union”.

The group was said to have included MEPs Maria Gabriela Zoană, from Romania, Tomáš Zdechovský, from the Czech Republic, and Ryszard Czarnecki, from Poland.

Mr Shiaan claimed they travelled to the Maldives “on a privately sponsored visit under a tourist visa and engaged in an ‘investigation’, in utter disregard and violation of the rules and laws of Maldives Immigration”.

The ambassador expressed “significant concern” about the fact the MEPs “did not meet any officials or representatives of the Maldives government”, therefore denying them a right of reply.

The Maldives, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean, is a popular holiday destination.

It has also become a source of alarm in the European Council and the European Parliament.

The latter expressed in a motion published in March, which registered “deep concern over the serious and deteriorating political and human rights situation in the Maldives, and the increasingly authoritarian rule of President [Abdulla] Yameen.” This was signed up to by Mr Zdechovský and Mr Czarnecki.

Mr Zdechovský, the European Parliament’s ‘rapporteur’ to the Maldives – which means he is supposed to act as a liaison officer – reportedly said he wanted to go to there “to see how the situation is really looking”.

He added the visit was “private” and “about meeting the opposition”. It was “absolutely not official”, and he travelled on a private passport, not his diplomatic one. Mr Zdechovský added that he paid for the trip himself. An official spokesperson for the MEP added: “There was a lot of misunderstanding regarding this issue, but Mr Zdechovsky really never said anywhere it was something official.”

Ms Zoană reportedly said she was “totally surprised” by the complaints. She insisted that she knew the visit was not an election observation mission.

Mr Czarnecki reportedly also said: “I never, never publicly stated that I was there as an official EP representative.”

Mr Shiaan’s letter about the Maldives visit provoked dismay in parliament.

MEP David McAllister said: “The EU did not send an official observation mission to the September presidential elections in the Maldives.”

Mr McAllister co-chairs the Parliament’s democracy support and election coordination group, which is responsible for any election observation activity.

He added: “I regret that some members travelled there on a tourist visa in a purely private capacity and made some statements that might have misrepresented EU and [European Parliament] positions on the situation in the country.

Full details are available at the link below:

Source URL: Google News

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