Sandra Paesen presents her letters of credence to Malawian President Peter Mutharika in October 2018. Photo by: European Union

BRUSSELS — Uncertainty hangs over the European Union’s diplomatic mission to Malawi,  after an EU spokesperson declined to clarify local media reports that its ambassador had been recalled to Brussels.

Local media reported last week that Sandra Paesen was set to leave the Southeast African country. “Various diplomatic sources have confirmed her departure but there are conflicting reports on what has prompted her departure,” The Nation Online tweeted. Nyasa Times reported that the Malawian government recently wrote to the EU to complain after Paesen took part in a protest against the alleged rape of women by police.

However, a senior EU official told Devex Tuesday that the decision was based purely on internal management issues.

“This has got nothing to do with Malawi or the political situation, and everything to do with management of the delegation and its staff,” the official said. “She’s not being kicked out, she is being called back. It’s an EU decision.”

Asked to confirm whether Paesen is leaving her post and why, an EU spokesperson told Devex last week: “We have seen the reports. At this stage, I have nothing to announce.” The spokesperson noted that staffing decisions for EU delegations are all made under the authority of Josep Borrell, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission.

Paesen declined to comment for this story.

She presented her credentials as head of the EU delegation in October of last year, having previously worked as head of the political, press, and information section in the EU delegation to Uganda.

The Malawian embassy in Brussels also refused to comment, saying that the EU was best placed to answer inquiries about Paesen's position, and adding that “it is their sovereign right to decide what to do with their diplomats.”

With around 18 million inhabitants, Malawi is one of the world’s poorest nations. The EU allocated €560 million ($615 million in 2015) to Malawi for the 2014-2020 budget period, with the funding focused mainly on governance, sustainable agriculture, secondary education, and vocational training. Last month, European institutions announced €139 million to help refurbish the main road across the landlocked country.

About the author

  • Vince Chadwick

    Vince Chadwick is the Brussels Correspondent for Devex. He covers the EU institutions, member states, and European civil society. A law graduate from Melbourne, Australia, he was social affairs reporter for The Age newspaper, before moving to Europe in 2013. He covered breaking news, the arts and public policy across the continent, including as a reporter and editor at POLITICO Europe.