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EU sanctions and the Maldives: A Q&A

The government has been warned “not to get caught up in its own propaganda.”



Earlier this month the European Union said it was slapping sanctions on people, organisations or institutions it says are responsible for human rights abuses, undermining democracy or stopping free and fair elections from taking place in the Maldives.

Like reading the small print? Key EU documents relating to the sanctions can be found here and here.

The Maldives Independent breaks it down.

These sanctions are a bit sudden

Not really. The EU has been talking about them since October 2017.

How serious is this?

EU parliamentarian Tomas Zdechovsky has warned Malé “not to get caught up in its own propaganda, but rather take expeditious steps to ameliorate the situation.”

What kind of sanctions are we talking?

Travel and money. The sanctions are thorough, tough and will target specific people, organisations and entities rather than the general Maldivian population. But they could have unintended consequences for the country. More of that later.

Go on

Thanks. Those listed in the EU’s yet-to-be-filled-in Annex of Shame will be: banned from travelling to any of the 28 EU member states; banned from transiting in any EU member state; have all their assets that are in an EU member state frozen; be prevented from claiming damages or compensation because of losses due to sanctions.

The sanctions also apply to “those associated with” the names in the Annex of Shame. What if someone in the Annex of Shame has a family member who wants to go to a EU member state for a holiday, business or study purposes? What about those travel fairs in Europe the Maldives uses to drive its lucrative tourism industry? We’ll find out!


No travel in EU member states. No transit in EU member states. Assets frozen in EU member states. The full list of EU member states can be found here and, remember, the UK is still part of the EU. EU member countries can work with other states to “maximise the impact” of sanctions. We’re not naming names, but this could mean the US or India.

How important is Europe for Maldives tourism?

It had a 56 percent regional share of tourist arrivals in the first six months of 2018.

Who has to abide by these sanctions?

Nationals (e.g. people) from EU member states who are inside or outside EU territory, institutions in EU member states, legal entities in EU member states…In other words, these sanctions could have an impact on individuals, businesses or organisations with connections to anyone or anything in the Annex of Shame.

It sounds like Brussels means business.


OMG the suspense. Who will be sanctioned?

Gambling is haraam but we’d put our money on:

– the president

– the cabinet

– the elections body

– the top ruling party lawmakers

– the heads of the armed forces and police

– the Prosecutor General and Attorney General

– the judiciary (or what’s left of it)

That’s quite the list. Is there precedent?

In Belarus the EU sanctioned four government officials involved in the disappearance of opposition politicians. It has targeted Venezuelan officials including the home minister, the head of parliament and the chief justice.

So when is this happening?

The EU keeps talking about free and fair elections. The elections are September 23. Do the math.

What does the government need to do to stop this?

Let those who want to run for president do so. Free the Maldives Nine (parts one and two). Allow parliament and the judiciary to function normally and independently. Level the political playing field. Stop enabling a culture of impunity that puts the media and rights activists at risk. That’s for starters.

What impact will the sanctions have on the Maldives?

The sanctions don’t ban people from going on holiday to the Maldives, besides we’ve seen tourism miraculously flourish in a very turbulent 2018. But there could be other consequences. Those people, organisations and institutions in the Annex of Shame might decide sanctions aren’t a price worth paying and turn against the administration.

A coup?!

Possibly, given how common they are, and the Maldives hasn’t had a coup for….well, it depends who you ask about when the last one was.

What else could happen?

The government could yield to the EU’s demands – but that’s another Q & A altogether.

Photo: @MDPSecretariat