General — 20 December 2013 — by Adele Ramos
EU sanction to Belize for 2014 not “cast in stone”

EU has a very large program ongoing with Belize

The “EU has not told Belize that it would cut cooperation if Belize begins to execute murderers.” — Ambassador Paola Amadei


Ambassador Paola Amadei, European Union (EU) Head of Delegation to Belize, was in the country this week on a mission to move the process forward in developing a new strategy for Belize to span 2014 to 2020.

Ambassador Amadei said this year, 2013, Belize saw the largest ever disbursement of EU funds, and their data show that Belize has a very large program ongoing, with a total value of 116 million euros or BZ$314 million.

She said that the EU is now preparing a new program for those seven years, and they have been in discussion with the Government of Belize, particularly the ministries responsible for economic development, finance, health and energy. They have also been meeting with civil society and private sector representatives, she said. The final strategy has to be submitted to the EU Parliament for approval, once it is completed, in 2014.

Ambassador Paola Amadei said that the EU’s allocation for Belize would more than double, when compared with allocations for the period 2008-2013. Based on data the Ambassador provided to our newspaper, the total disbursements since 2008 have totaled roughly BZ$150 million. The funds, provided through the European Development Fund (EDF) are grant funds; however, governments have the obligation of ensuring continuity of the investment schemes – such as the maintenance of roads built under the program.

She said that for the new strategy, a conscious effort is being made to align the EU strategy with Belize’s national strategy.

The entire Caribbean envelope for 2014-2020 is 1 billion euros, equivalent to about BZ$2.7 billion.

She spoke of further financial assistance available as of 2013 through the Caribbean Investment Facility, through which loan resources can also be obtained from other sources.

Ambassador Paola Amadei is based in Jamaica. Apart from Belize, she also serves The Bahamas, The Turks and Caicos, and Cayman.

We asked the Ambassador to address the perception that the multi-million-dollar EU grants come with “strings attached”—such as the suspension of hanging of convicted murderers in Belize.

The Ambassador told Amandala that this is not so. She said that for the EU, there is a long-standing policy that all the members of the EU are against the use of the death penalty. She explained that for any country to become a member of the EU, it needs to abolish the death penalty from its books.

At the international level, it is EU policy to continue promoting the abolition of the death penalty, or at least to lobby for a moratorium.

Ambassador Amadei said that the EU has provided representation in trials for persons who face execution, and they continue to also lobby the US – where the death penalty is still administered in some states. But, she said, stopping development cooperation is not a threat made as a part of that lobby against the death penalty.

She said that the EU has not told Belize that it would cut cooperation if Belize begins to execute murderers.

The year 2013 closes, however, with the EU imposing a trade sanction against Belize, and particularly a ban on the importation of fish products captured by Belize-flagged ships on the high seas, on the allegation that Belize has not done what it should to check their involvement in Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

We asked Ambassador Amadei to clarify for us a statement broadcast on Radio Australia today, in which an EU official, speaking of a similar ban against Cambodia, was quoted as saying that the sanction also bars EU companies and EU fishermen from cooperating with companies based in Cambodia or from sharing vessels or working on vessels that have flags that are from those countries blacklisted. So it is effectively stopping all such ties to the listed countries.

Amadei was frank in admitting that she does not know about this aspect of the sanction. The Ambassador told us that the sanction against Belize is based on the EU’s need to be assured that the country has control over the vessels flying its flags.

She said that the EU is ready to provide Belize with the technical assistance it may need to help address the matter.

She told us the EU decision against Belize “will continually be reviewed,” and is not “cast in stone.”

Spain has announced that after this weekend, EU countries will commence their ban of Belize imports from catches made by the high seas fishing fleet with operation in the world’s oceans.

According to the Government of Belize, its shipping registry currently has a fleet of 128 fishing vessels, of which about 20 fish in the Atlantic Ocean and discharge their fish at the European Union ports.

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