The German government announced on Tuesday that following negotiations with Cambodian officials it has decided to approve a package of $34 million in loans and $32 million in grants to develop rural infrastructure and reduce poverty.
A press release by the German Embassy urged Cambodia, however, to reverse last year’s democratic backsliding and deterioration in human rights in order to avoid the impending loss of duty-free EU market access for its garment sector and other export industries under the union’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.
The embassy said its $34 million in loans would be part of a rural infrastructure development project with France and the European Union, who would bring the total amount to some $90 million in loans.
Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary Secretary of State with the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Chhieng Yanara, Minister attached to Prime Minister Hun Sen, held bilateral negotiations over the package and discussed Germany’s demands for an end to the government crackdown on independent media and civil society and a lifting of the ban on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
“While perceptions differed, both sides agreed to the importance of opening political and civic spaces” in Cambodia, the press release said.
Barthle said, “If political and civic spaces open up, Cambodia can avert the withdrawal of EBA preferences. National law and practice need to be brought in line with international human rights obligations such as the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly. I am convinced it can be easily done.”
The German funding through loans and grants will go to supporting a World Bank multi-donor trust fund to support the implementation of a Social Accountability Framework, an Identification of Poor Households Program, Social Health Protection, Rural Infrastructure Program, and a Regional Economic Development Program and a Study and Expert Fund, the release said.