More than four in ten Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) did not support Swaziland’s inclusion in a trade partnership deal.
European Union Ambassador to Swaziland Nicola Bellomo said many MEPs wanted Swaziland excluded because of human rights violations.
In a recent vote, 417 MEPs endorsed Swaziland’s inclusion in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement. However, 216 MEPs voted against and a further 118 abstained from voting.
Bellomo told the Sunday Observer (9 October 2016), a newspaper in Swaziland in effect owned by King Mswati III, that those who wanted the kingdom to be excluded cited human rights violations. He gave the jailing of the Nation magazine editor Bheki Makhubu and Human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko on sedition charges as examples.
The Observer reported the EU ambassador said this should be ‘a wake-up call’ to Swaziland.
The new trade agreement opens SADC goods to the European markets duty free.
In May 2015, the European Parliament voted for the release of all political prisoners in Swaziland and called for the kingdom, where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, to be monitored for its human rights record.
A statement issued by the European Parliament said, ‘Parliament considers the imprisonment of political activists and the banning of trade unions to be in clear contravention of commitments made by Swaziland under the Cotonou Agreement to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and also under the sustainable development chapter of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement, for which Parliament’s support will depend on respect for the commitments made.’
The resolution was passed by 579 votes to six, with 58 abstentions.
In January 2015, the United States withdrew Swaziland’s trading benefits under the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) after the kingdom refused to accept democratic change.
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