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June 24, 2007

Foreign Ministry to EU envoy over remarks
Malaysia views comments by the European Union's (EU) top envoy to the country, Thierry Rommel, critical of the country's New Economic Policy (NEP) as irresponsible, and Foreign Ministry will summon him to explain his remarks.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said the comments were tantamount to meddling in the country's internal affairs and policies.

He said Malaysian ambassador to Brussels, Datuk Kamal Yan Yahya, would meet EU officials to convey Malaysia's stance with regard to Rommel's remarks.

"Malaysia will then study the possibility of sending a protest note against the statement of an ambassador who should be forging constructive and good relations between Malaysia and the EU, and not otherwise," he told reporters in Rome.

Rommel, who is the ambassador and head of the European Commission Delegation to Malaysia, was quoted by the media as saying that the NEP, seen as favouring the Malays and Bumiputera, did not provide a level playing field for foreign companies.

Rommel alleged that the government was using the NEP as an excuse to practise "significant protectionism of its own market", including the automotive sector, steel, consumer goods, agricultural products, services and government contracts.

Syed Hamid said: "We're disappointed that a diplomat had made a statement which pointed to his lack of understanding of the role of an envoy and a diplomat who shouldn't be interfering in the internal affairs and policies of a country."

The minister is a member of the Malaysian delegation accompanying Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on his three-day visit to Italy. Abdullah is scheduled to arrive here tonight.

Noting that relations between Malaysia and the EU were good, Syed Hamid said Rommel's action would not contribute to improving the ties further.

"I believe that he (Rommel) was expressing his personal opinion which had nothing to do with EU's attitude towards us, considering that our relations are very close and good," he said.

Syed Hamid reckoned that this was the first time that an EU diplomat had commented on a sensitive issue.

"I feel that Rommel's statement was not based on facts. If we look at the facts, the EU's overall investment and trade volume with Malaysia is high," he said.

"He said our policies are stifling the economy but the fact is that our economy and stock market are growing, and the level of in-coming investment is also encouraging. So it's clear that what he said was not based on facts," he added. Bernama

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