BUSINESS AS USUAL | EU’s top envoy in PH to meet Cayetano for clarification on aid ‘rejection’

May 23, 2017 - 5:28 PM
The European Union flag. (Reuters file photo)

MANILA – European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen will meet Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano next week to clarify the Duterte administration’s decision to reject EU aid.

Asked what would happen to the aid that the EU had already earmarked for the Philippines, he said he would meet with Cayetano, and take things “step by step”.

Jessen attended a forum on European literature at the University of Santo Tomas on Tuesday, where he said he had not yet received any written communication regarding the matter from the Philippine government.

When asked about the EU’s stand on the issue, he said, “We’re not withdrawing any amount.”

“We work as we have done in the past,” Jessen added. As there had been no pronouncement from the government about ongoing assistance from the EU, it would continue.

Asked if he would maintain the EU’s stand on human rights when he met with Cayetano, Jessen replied, “We will of course listen to what he has to say. This is a dialogue and we talk and we take issues step by step.”

He added that the issue of the government with the EU needed to be made clear.

President Rodrigo Duterte had previously railed against EU for its criticism of the drug war.

Rights discussion unrelated to devt aid

Nevertheless, Jessen said, “The human rights discussion is, in a sense, unrelated to our development assistance. We have a political dialogue with the Philippines and there we raise all sorts of issues. That’s not directly related to our development cooperation.”

Meanwhile, an EU delegation would still be attending the ASEAN Regional Forum in the Philippines on Wednesday, an event which had long been scheduled. The EU delegation would also hold bilateral conversations with the Philippine government. These would not be related to rejection of EU aid, however, Jessen said.

In his opening speech for the forum on European literature, Jessen nevertheless elaborated on human rights, saying, “The issue of human rights is not something that divides us (EU). It is something that divides many people, even within the one country. And for me the answer is very clear, and I think we should look at this in a very straightforward and objective manner, without looking at this as being something to do with one country or the other country’s pride.”

He added that the EU wished to encourage cooperation between the Philippines and the EU; one that promoted a global order based on “peace, rule of law, freedom of expression, mutual understanding, and respect for fundamental values”.

Jessen explained, “We are not here to impose any value or to discourage any other value. We have views, and we will share them with you, and we do that in an open discussion with you and with your government. It’s clear that we have one way of looking at the world and we think it’s right… but we are very open to hear different views and to adjust our world views according to the discussions that we have with the countries and the governments with other places.”