MANILA, Philippines—Reciprocal high-level visits between Philippine and European leaders have made 2012 a banner year for relations between the country and the bloc, according to the European Union (EU) ambassador to Manila.
Guy Ledoux, head of the EU delegation here, cited exchanges between top Filipino and European officials in noting the closer ties between the Philippines and EU nations, particularly in trade partnerships.
“[The year] 2012 is shaping up to be a landmark year in the development of EU-Philippines relations. I cannot recall in the recent past so many high-level contacts between the EU and its member states and the Philippines,” Ledoux said in a statement to the Inquirer.
“This is clearly a sign of higher interest by both sides to enhance bilateral relations. The EU, after all, is the largest investor in the Philippines and its fourth largest trading partner. The good performance of the Philippine economy certainly plays a role in this renewed interest of Europe in the Philippines,” he said.
Ledoux made the comments ahead of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s coming visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, where global leaders will gather for the European Development Days, the region’s premier international development forum.
On the sidelines of the event, Binay will meet with European Commission President Jose Barroso and at least four EU commissioners on issues of mutual interest, including the new framework agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and labor issues.
The meeting follows earlier meetings between President Aquino and Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario also met with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton in July, when the two signed the EU-Philippines Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the first bilateral pact between the two parties.
“High-level contacts between the EU and the Philippines demonstrate the awareness at the highest level of the potential offered by a strengthened cooperation,” said Ledoux.
Just this week, the EU announced its offer of up to P95 million in grants to Philippine civil society organizations involved in human rights work, particularly projects “supporting human rights defenders and protecting and promoting the rights of children.”
In its call for proposals open to Philippine organizations, the EU said that each qualified organization stood to receive P10 million to P26 million per project, which should extend from at least one year to up to a year and a half.
“The Call for Proposal reaffirms the commitment of the European Union in promoting human rights as an essential element underlying all its external relations including political dialogues and development cooperation,” said Ledoux.
The funds were allocated through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, a grant facility that has been offered to at least 101 non-EU countries since 2006 to promote democracy and human rights, the EU said.