The European Union Thursday denied claims made by President Abdulla Yameen that the Maldives has been warned of a ban on fish exports as part of threatened targeted sanctions.
Yameen said Wednesday the measures were prompted by his defence of Islamic principles, slamming the alleged meddling in domestic affairs ahead of the September 23 presidential election.
“Alarm bells are ringing that our exports could be banned at any time,” he said during a campaign stop on Dhiyamigili island.
“Alarm bell warnings are ringing that our people of various levels could be banned from visiting various countries. And threats are being made of other restrictions as well. Isn’t this influencing an election? Isn’t this exerting power over a country’s domestic affairs?”
Opposition leaders were not condemning foreign interference because they are unwilling to say the Maldives should remain 100 percent Muslim, he alleged.
EU countries are among the top destinations for Maldivian tuna exports.
An EU official told the Maldives Independent that there was “no intention” of banning fish exports.
“The full text clearly states that targeted restrictive measures will be imposed only against persons and entities responsible for undermining the rule of law or obstructing an inclusive political solution, or responsible for serious human rights violations or abuses. It makes no reference to export bans.”
The EU framework adopted last month says member countries can freeze funds and impose travel bans on individuals and entities. An annex listing the individuals or entities targeted by the sanctions remains blank.
“If the situation further deteriorates, in particular in the context of the presidential elections, we would consider to step up the current measures,” an EU source previously told the Maldives Independent.
Over the past four years, the president has repeatedly claimed that the EU revoked duty-free status for Maldives tuna over the refusal to allow religious freedom and homosexual rights, an allegation denied by the EU.
“The Maldives is now an upper middle-income country and could not benefit from [a preferential trade] scheme even if its respect for human rights was akin to New Zealand or Norway,” an official told the Maldives Independent in 2016.