President Joyce Banda
Blantyre, Malawi – The European Union (EU) delegation in Lilongwe and the Malawi mission to the EU in Brussels have denied reports that President Joyce Banda cancelled her trip to Brussels last week because she was barred from entering the EU, following financial scandals currently rocking her government.
Banda was supposed to fly from Abu Dhabi and Kuwait straight to Brussels to attend the European Development Days’ activities on last Tuesday and Wednesday.
But State House Press Secretary Steven Nhlane announced that the President would not go to Brussels because the trip was not fully-funded.
The Social Media was nonetheless abuzz with suggestions that the EU was so annoyed by the financial scandals at Capital Hill that it imposed a travel ban on Banda and her government.
Head of the EU delegation to Malawi Alexander Baum described the reports as ‘false’.
“There is nothing like a travel ban for anyone and this is also not the way the European Union or any state conducts international relations,” he told PANA on Tuesday.
Baum said President Banda was welcome any time in Brussels and the entire 28-member economic bloc.
“We believe that it would have been an opportunity for bilateral political consultations, but at the same time, we do fully understand and respect the fiscal constraints under which government is operating currently and that the President wishes to set an example, even if it would have been important to travel,” he said.
Following western donor nations’ decision to suspend US$150 million in aid, new Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba announced new austerity measures, including a ban in both unnecessary local and international travel for all government officials, including the president.
The former African Union Economics Commissioner said government officials can only travel if such trips are very important or have been fully-funded.
Malawi Ambassador to the EU Brave Ndisale corroborated Baum’s statement, saying international visits by the heads of state and government were arranged through diplomatic channels and, in this case, her mission.
She said Brussels never communicated any travel ban for Banda to her office.
“You may wish to note that under the (Africa Caribbean and Pacific and European union) ACP–EU Partnership Agreement, there are procedures that are followed by either party before any form of cooperation is suspended. Suspension of aid or travel is done in a transparent and consultative manner,” she said.
Africa was represented at the European Development Days activities by Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Mahamadou Issoufou of Liberia and Niger respectively, Cape Verdean Prime Minister Jose Pereira Neves and African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The EU Commission and the Presidency of the European Union Council organise European Development Days annually to allow leaders and organisations discus issues affecting development in the world.