The scathing statements by the European ambassador, Isabelle Delattre Burger, on the law introducing surgical castration for child rapists adopted at the end of February by Madagascar were considered too much criticism by the authorities in Antananarivo. His recall was requested in Brussels.

“The High Representative of the Union [Josep Borell] received a letter to express Madagascar’s dissatisfaction with the press conference [held by Ms. Delattre Burger] and to ask the EU to replace it. The European External Action Service, in consultation with the Malagasy government, is currently examining this request,” a spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed on Thursday April 4. “It should be noted that the annual Heads of Delegation rotation exercise takes place in September. The process is ongoing and no further information can be provided at this stage,” adds Brussels to delay.

On February 26, the representative of the European Union (EU), in office for almost two years in Antananarivo, took offense to the press at a law contrary to the Malagasy Constitution and the commitments made at the international level by the country. “Rape is a crime, but it must be fought by all means worthy of the name. I don’t think that chemical castration or just castration is a deterrent for rapists,” she said. Summoned immediately by the new head of Malagasy diplomacy, Rafaravavitafika Rasata, her possible departure was not discussed during the interview.

“At a loss”

The law on castration, however, is only one of the areas of friction between the EU and Madagascar since the re-election of Andry Rajoelina in November 2023 following a vote boycotted by the opposition. If, until the election, the ambassador – with other representatives of the diplomatic corps in Madagascar – had always taken care in public to express herself with a certain restraint in her criticism of the electoral process, in notably refraining from supporting the request for postponement desired by the opposition, she had recently put fewer filters on her remarks.

During the press conference on February 26, she once again regretted that the authorities had still not followed the recommendations made by the EU observation mission since the previous presidential election in 2018 to guarantee consultation transparent and reliable. An arrow aimed at power two months before the legislative elections.

The diplomat also criticized the management of public funds in the roads sector. A highly sensitive subject given the state of disrepair of the national network. “It’s great to build roads, but we, as partners who have helped improve the network, are frustrated to see that the road maintenance fund does not have the means to maintain them. A road should not last five years but fifteen. All this does not whet the appetite of partners to put hundreds of millions of euros on the table again. It’s a waste,” she noted.

Covid embezzlement

The misappropriation of funds granted to fight the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted by a 2022 audit report from the Malagasy Court of Auditors is also on the list of unresolved disputes.

In 2022, the EU was Madagascar’s second bilateral donor behind the United States with $117 million (€107 million) paid, according to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In total, public development assistance provides nearly 70% of state investments.

In any case, the request to recall the European ambassador sounds like a warning to partners who dare to criticize too openly the choices and practices of the regime.