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Shiaan to EU over MEPs breaking visa rules in Maldives ahead of election

Fathmath Shaahunaz
11 September 2018, MVT 15:04
Members of the EU Parliament: (L-R) Tomas Zdechovsky from the Czech Republic, Maria Gabriela Zoana from Romania, and Ryszard Czarnecki from Poland.
Fathmath Shaahunaz
11 September 2018, MVT 15:04

The Maldives’ Ambassador to the European Union, Ahmed Shiaan, has raised official complaints about three members of the European Union (EU) Parliament who travelled to Maldives on tourist visas and reportedly represented the union as an official delegation.

According to foreign media reports, the group of MEPs included Maria Gabriela Zoana from Romania, Ryszard Czarnecki from Poland, and the EU Parliament's rapporteur to Maldives, Tomas Zdechovsky from the Czech Republic.

In a letter to the parliament's President Antonio Tajani, Shiaan stated that the three MEPs, who had travelled to Maldives and met with the opposition ahead of the Presidential Election slated for September 23, had “presented themselves as though they were an official delegation of the European Union”.

According to Shiaan, the MEPs arrived in 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”.

In accordance with EU Parliament regulations, all details of official visits to other countries must be presented to the parliament in advance.

Shiaan also raised concerns as the MEPs “did not meet any officials or representatives of the Maldives government” during the visit.

However, the MEPs in question have refuted Shiaan's allegations.

Foreign media reports cited Zdechovsky that he visited Maldives only "to see how the situation is really looking”. He stated that he had travelled on a private passport, and that it had been a "private" visit and "about meeting the opposition".

Zoana was also cited as saying that she knew the visit was not an election observation mission, while Czarnecki was quoted as saying, “I never, never publicly stated that I was there as an official EP representative.”

In the wake of Shiaan's letter, the parliament's co-chair of the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group responsible for any election observation activity, David McAllister, confirmed that the EU did not send any official observation mission to the upcoming Maldives election.

“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," he said.

While the Maldivian government has extended invitations to the EU and United Nations to observe the September election, both the bodies have declined.

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