RELATIONS WITH THE EU
The European Union and Cambodia
The main role of the Delegations is to represent the EU in the country where they are based and to promote the values and interests of the EU. It is responsible for all policy areas of the relationship between the EU and Cambodia.
The EU programmes involve Cambodians from every walk of life and take place in a wide range of areas, including: education, agriculture and natural resource management, governance, human rights, public finance management, private sector development, environment and climate change.
On This Page
- Political Relations
- Economic and Trade Relations
- Development Cooperation
- Focal sectors
- Focal sectors
- Focal sectors
- Humanitarian aid
- Democracy and Human Rights
- Civil Society
- Trade and Private Sector Development
- Food Security and Nutrition
- Climate Change and the Environment
- Gender equality
- COVID 19 related support
- Cultural and Public diplomacy
The European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) coordinate the EU-Cambodia and EU-ASEAN relations.
EU-Cambodia relations were established when the Kingdom and the European Communities signed a cooperation agreement in 1997. The agreement focused on both development and economic cooperation, trade, and the promotion of democracy and human rights. Since 2000 the EU and Cambodia hold a biannual Joint Committee meetings to discuss those and other issues.
On the EU-ASEAN level, Cambodia is engaged since July 2000 through the 1980 EC-ASEAN Cooperation Agreement. Regular meetings, such as the EU-ASEAN Summit, the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) bring together decision makers. The ASEAN Post-Ministerial Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum allow for further discussions.
The EU and ASEAN upgraded their longstanding relationship to Strategic Partners in 2020.
Furthermore, the European Parliament (EP) Delegation for Relations with SEA and ASEAN visits Cambodia regularly. The EP has also sent election observers and participates in EU-ASEAN inter-parliamentary diplomacy.
The two sides are also engaged in the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM). The ASEM summit is scheduled for November 2021 in Phnom Penh.
Economic and Trade Relations
Cambodia, as a Least Developed Country, benefits from duty-free and quota-free access to the EU for all products, except arms under the "Everything But Arms" (EBA) scheme as part of the "Generalised Scheme of Preferences" (GSP).
The preferential access under the EBA scheme has been one of the main drivers for development of the garments and footwear sectors, stimulating economic growth and jobs.
However, the granting of EU trade preferences is subject to the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including labour rights, as a crucial part of EU trade policy. On 12 February 2020, the European Commission decided to suspend part of the tariff preferences granted to Cambodia under the EBA scheme due to serious and systematic violations of the human rights principles enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The decision took effect on 12 August 2020.
The EU Access2Markets (A2M) online portal provides information on EU market access.
To promote activities of European companies, the EU supports the ASEAN IPR SME Helpdesk.
The European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham) is also supported to assist European investors in the country.
The EU is Cambodia's biggest development partner in terms of grant aid
EU-Cambodia cooperation has evolved to support the Government’s reform policies. Poverty alleviation remains an overarching priority.
The European Joint Programming Strategy for Cambodia 2014-2020 regrouped eleven European Partners being collectively Cambodia’s largest grant provider, also mobilising €443 million as response to Covid-19.
The EU bilateral Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2014-2020 focussed on:
- Fisheries and aquaculture.
- Basic education.
- Governance and administration, including Public Finance Management and ECCC.
During Covid-19 social protection programs were added. It allocated a total of €395 million to Cambodia, with many actions still under implementation.
The MIP 2021-2027 is in preparation.
In addition, Cambodia benefits from EU regional and thematic programmes, support to ASEAN and facilities such as the Asian Investment Facility (AIF), blending EU grants with loans, reaching €685 million in Cambodia so far. Since 2014, increased EU funding is provided to CSOs under Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities (CSO/LA) budget and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
Agriculture/Natural resource management
Agriculture represents the country’s first sector of employment but labour productivity remains below average, and poverty is most widespread in rural areas, particularly among ethnic minorities. The EU aims to streamline sustainable resource management and fight poverty, with a total commitment of €112 million for 2014-2020.
Through the CAPFISH program, the EU is focusing on the critically important environments of the Tonle Sap lake, the Mekong and coastal mangrove forests. In cooperation with the AFD, FAO, UNESCO, UNIDO and the RGC, the EU is supporting sustainable, resilient and inclusive development in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors with a particular focus on sustained levels of catch, aquaculture growth and adding value post-harvest.
Through blending operations with EIB, AFD and KfW, the EU supports the rehabilitation and efficient use of irrigation infrastructures as well as the development of rural roads and economic poles.
The EU furthermore promotes the sustainable management of forests, biodiversity and coastal areas, and a human rights-based approach to land distribution and titling for indigenous people.
The EU is strongly committed to education as it forges citizenship and democracy as well as reduces poverty. Three decades of conflict left Cambodia without a formal education system, with few teachers and a limited number of functioning schools.
The EU is a major partner of the Cambodian education system. As early as 2000, the European Commission and EU countries began partnering with Cambodia in refurbishing schools, training teachers and helping the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS) to re-build the sector.
Since 2003, the EU has granted budget support, i.e. transfers to the national treasury, to finance the policy reforms set in the Education Strategic Plan, as defined by the MoEYS. Budget transfers, released upon performance of jointly-set targets, are accompanied by Technical Assistance, including by UNICEF, to build capacity within the Ministry and tackle the need to improve the quality of the offer and retain students until completion of their studies.
The current, and fifth, budget support programme 2018-2021 devotes €100 million to several education reforms, which benefit in particular the 3 million Cambodian children in their early and basic education years.
Governance and Administration
The transformation of the public financial management system toward international standards by 2025 is a core objective of the RGC’s “Rectangular Strategy” to achieve the Cambodia Vision 2030 and 2050. Strengthening public finance management is an essential component to improve efficiency in service delivery and build confidence among donors to channel aid through government systems in a coordinated manner.
The EU has supported the Public Finance Management Reform Programme since 2005 and provided more than €50 million since 2015 alone. The funds are channelled through budget support to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF). The EU also provides technical assistance and advice on policy planning and monitoring of implementation.
For more information on public finance management in Cambodia please click here or here.
The EU is supporting justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge and raising standards of the judicial administration. The EU and EU member states are the second largest contributor to the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) having provided €32.3 million in grants since 2007. The ECCC serves as a model for the development of the country’s legal system.
The EU is the world's largest provider of financing for humanitarian aid. Many of the EU countries directly provide humanitarian assistance. The EU humanitarian aid operations are managed by European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).
The ECHO's Regional Support Office based in Bangkok follows the development of humanitarian needs in Cambodia, carries out emergency assessments if the need arises, and monitors aid projects. Aid packages include assessments of humanitarian needs in disaster areas as well as providing funds for goods and services such as food, shelter, medical provisions, water supplies, sanitation or emergency rehabilitation. Disaster preparedness and risk reduction projects in regions prone to natural catastrophes are also among the life-saving activities financed by ECHO.
For more information on the European Commission humanitarian aid and civil protection in Cambodia, click here.
For information regarding EU’s response to floods in Cambodia, October 2020, click here.
Democracy and Human Rights
Human rights and democratisation are at the heart of the EU agenda. The EU’s principles, objectives and priorities are set out in the 2012 Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy. To implement the framework, the EU adopted three EU Action Plans 2012-2014, 2015-2019 and 2020-2024.
The current action plan identifies five priorities:
- Protecting and empowering individuals.
- Building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies.
- Promoting a global system for human rights and democracy.
- Harnessing opportunities and addressing challenges of new technology.
- Working together.
Together with EU Member States Embassies, the EU Delegations are at the forefront of the implementation of the Action Plan at country level. To achieve that objective, the EU works in close cooperation with other countries, regional and international organizations and civil society which is seen as a key partner.
The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights Programme (EIDHR) is a key financial instrument in supporting CSOs working in these areas. In Cambodia, 46 projects promoting human rights (including land rights), democracy and the rule of law have been funded under this programme since 2003.
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are vital in fulfilling the commitments of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development both within and outside the EU. A pluralistic and vibrant civil society is key to fight inequalities and build inclusive societies. The EU supports and works in close cooperation with CSOs.
Since 2012 the European Commission (EC) promotes a more strategic and systematic approach to CSO engagement, identifying three priorities:
- Enhance efforts to promote a conducive environment for CSOs in partner countries.
- Promote meaningful and structured participation of CSOs in domestic policies of partner countries.
- Increase local CSOs’ capacities.
In Cambodia, the EU has supported over 40 projects implemented by CSOs with more than €70 million since 2015 alone. Among other topics, the projects were focused on land rights, environmental conservation, education and rural development. One of the main instruments to support civil society is the Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities (CSO/LA) programme. Since 2003, the instrument supported 62 projects, 7 of them implemented directly by Cambodian Local Authorities.
Trade and Private Sector Development
Trade integration and improvement of trade competitiveness are critical in reducing poverty and building an inclusive economy.
To achieve this, the EU works closely with Cambodia under the EU-ASEAN Cooperation Agreement. The EU’s activities in Cambodia are bundled in the ARISE Plus programme, co-funded by Germany. It followed the success of the Trade Development Support Programme (TDSP) in simplifying trade procedures, promoting customs automation and improving specific value chains.
At its core are three objectives:
- Support acceleration of the Cambodian Government’s implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
- Achieve a more transparent, predictable and competitive trade environment.
- Enhance private sector engagement, notably Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.
Cambodia also benefits from trade-related assistance (TRA). The EU and its member states make significant contributions to the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the global TRA programme for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to extend and diversify exports. Among others, this program finances the Cambodian Trade Integration Strategy Update (CTISU 2019-2023), the e-commerce strategy and the Go4ECam project.
Food Security and Nutrition
Cambodia had made impressive progress in the fight against child stunting and food insecurity, though critical emerging issues such as obesity, food safety, and urbanization pose new challenges for Cambodia to address malnutrition and the child-stunting rate is 32.4% (2014).
The EU Food and Nutrition Security Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and Transformation (FIRST) is a facility that provides governments with policy assistance and capacity development support. The aim of the programme is to facilitate policy dialogue around food, nutrition security and sustainable agriculture.
The EU - FIRST programme for Cambodia (2016-2021) is supporting the Council for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD), policy review, and developing the National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) 2019-2023, capacity strengthening to national and sub-national authorities for strategic coordination and governance across sectors and stakeholders in particular mainstreaming FSN in agriculture-sector. The EU delegation concentrates its resources on food security in the fisheries sector by supporting poverty reduction in most vulnerable households.
Climate Change and the Environment
Cambodia is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Seasonal flooding and droughts are set to intensify as rainfall patterns change. Deforestation is a main contributor to rising greenhouse gas emissions and the rapid loss of biodiversity.
The Cambodia Climate Change Alliance (CCCA) has been funded mainly by the EU, and is currently in its third phase. The programme is implemented by UNDP. It helps to increase the resilience of vulnerable sectors and communities to climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support Cambodia’s participation in international negotiations.
Through projects with WWF, Danmission and others, the EU promotes the role of local communities and civil society in forestry and natural resource management and protection.
The EU also supports the Forestry Administration in strengthening forest governance through the EU-FAO Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade programme.
Green energy is another area of cooperation. The EU supports energy efficiency in the garment sector in a project with GGGI (Global Green Growth Institute) and solar technology innovations in agricultural value chains (project with PIN – People In Need).
Gender equality is a human right and a core value of the EU. It is essential to well-being, economic growth, prosperity, good governance, peace and security. The EU promotes gender equality not only internally but also as a key objective of its external action and common foreign and security policy, aimed at accelerating progress towards global goals including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The EU’s Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in External Action aims to accelerate the empowerment of women and girls, and safeguard gains made in gender equality. To implement its objectives, the currently third 2021-2025 Gender Action Plan (GAP III) has been formulated.
In Cambodia, the EU supports gender equality through policy dialogue and gender-specific projects. Past projects have, among other topics, been focused on promoting women empowerment through grassroots activism, education on issues of gender, training, addressing and awareness raising on violence against women, improving food security for households, support to the participation of women in public life and advocacy.
COVID 19 related support
The EU has signed an ASEAN-level contract with WHO, including the provision of €2.8 million for Cambodia’s healthcare for the next 3 years. The program will strengthen monitoring, testing and caseload managing capabilities.
Team Europe (EU and the Member States) is a lead contributor to the UN’s COVAX Facility with over $2.6 billion, including €1 billion from the EU budget in grants and guarantees. Through COVAX, 324,000 AZ vaccines were delivered to Cambodia in March 2021 with 1,1 million doses allocated for 2021.
To help with the response to the economic and social fallout, while ensuring continuity of ongoing policy reform, the EU is supporting a new social protection program in Cambodia. This program supports Social Protection and long-term reforms including social assistance and social security expansion. It is implemented in partnership with the RGC, UN agencies and CSOs and is synergic with other ongoing interventions. Moreover, a number of projects supporting the most vulnerable affected by Covid-19 are in place. In Phnom Penh, such projects have been instrumental to monitor the situation during the lockdown in April 2021.
Further support is being prepared for the education system.
Cultural and Public diplomacy
The EU-Cambodia relationship is much broader than trade and development. EU countries' Embassies and cultural institutions actively promote cultural exchange. The EU Delegation works alongside them to organise various events. The EU Delegation supports the major yearly cultural events that showcase European culture, including Photo Phnom Penh and the International Music Festival Phnom Penh.
Educational links are also important with both the EU countries and the EU, through the Erasmus+ programme, offering scholarships to study in Europe and other opportunities for scholars and higher education institutions. The Erasmus+ programme supports the establishment of partnerships between European and Cambodian higher education institutions for networking, research, scholarships, and curriculum development.
The EU Delegation regularly supports and takes part in various human rights related events and campaigns and think tank conferences.