EU never pin pointed to Sri Lanka

EU never pin pointed to Sri Lanka says EU high official

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The EU and Sri Lanka had very constructive discussions on various issues including GSP+ at the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission held in past two days. Deputy Director General for external Relations of EU Joao Aguiar Machado said the EU is the major development partner for Sri Lanka and both parties work together for a common goal.He said terrorism is a global issue but EU concerns on human right violations and media freedom of Sri Lanka. Addressing media in Colombo he said issues of the GSP+ is a matter before them. However EU has to renew the GSP+ scheme after its observations, he said.

\”We are not in a final stage, he commented.

He said the EU has serious concerns about Sri Lanka\’s human rights record and will withhold a 70 million-euro aid package unless it opens up.

The commission said the package was dependent on Sri Lanka removing barriers to humanitarian assistance, including resolving visa issues for Red Cross and U.N. workers in the country.

Full press statement of , Mr Joao Aguiar Machado, Deputy Director General for External Relations, European Commission

I have been in Sri Lanka to Co-chair the Joint Commission between the European Commission and the government of Sri Lanka A?A?A? this should be a regular event to review our relations. I am pleased we were able to have this meeting after a 4-year delay. I also held a number of bilateral meetings with government.

Relations between the European Commission and Sri Lanka are governed by a Cooperation Agreement from 1995. The EU and Sri Lanka have deep, long-standing relations, covering economic, trade, political and cultural matters. The EU is committed to maintaining these relations and I welcomed the opportunity provided by this visit for open and frank discussions.

The meetings were positive in helping to understand our mutual positions, to review the areas of cooperation that are working well and to identify areas where performance can improve.

We noted the advances made since the visit of the EU Troika here in March 2008, such as the beginnings of the democratic process in the east. We expressed our hope that the situation in the east can be further stabilised, including through disarming all paramilitary groups and control of terrorist activities. We also discussed the continued work of the APRC and expressed hope that its second proposal will be ambitious and supported. On the issue of terrorism, a parallel meeting is taking place today between government and the EU member states so I will not cover this here, except to say the EU condemns absolutely and unreservedly the terrorist attacks being committed by the LTTE.

The Government updated us on progress in preparing its application for GSP+. We explained the criteria that need to be fulfilled to be eligible to the GSP+ regime, namely the ratification and effective implementation of the 27 international conventions. We also reassured the government that no decision has been taken and that, when its starts, the assessment process will be fair and impartial. We encouraged Sri Lanka to take all the necessary steps to ensure its compliance so GSP+ can continue bring benefits to the country, in particular those people employed in the textile sector. We encouraged the Government to submit its outstanding reports to the relevant monitoring bodies as soon as possible.

We expressed our serious concerns with the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, as indicated by a wide range of sources including reports from United Nations rapporteurs as well as the statements by the multi-national International Group of Eminent Persons which recently decided to withdraw from Sri Lanka. We recalled the seriousness of the calls by the IIGEP and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to the Government to deliver concrete results through considering their recommendations seriously, taking cases to court, and ensuring effective and independent human rights monitoring.

Our development and humanitarian aid was discussed. The Government welcomed our past aid and our continued support as one of Sri LankaA?A?A?s most constant and supportive donors. We reviewed progress on implementing our 148 million Euro of tsunami assistance, including the reconstruction of 160 kilometres of the road from Matara to Batticaloa with our partners the Roads Development Authority and ADB, our building 400 kilometres of road within Ampara, of building 3000 houses and so forth. We discussed the continued substantial support that we are providing to Sri Lanka, including the further 70 million Euro this year.

We emphasised however that there are increasing problems delivering this aid in Sri Lanka that need to be resolved. These included the unblocking visas for ICRC, UN and NGOs, improving access for implementing agencies including into the Vanni for emergency work, the need to stop taxation of NGOs for charitable humanitarian work, the need to improve security for agencies by stressing the positive role they play in Sri Lanka and the need to tackle the shortage and price distortions of the countryA?A?A?s bitumen monopoly that is threatening completion of all road projects in the country. We explained that failure to resolve these issues could make delivery of aid impossible which would effectively stop the projects we are funding and are hoping to fund. This is in neither the EUA?A?A?s nor Sri LankaA?A?A?s interest. The government stated that it is addressing some of these issues already such as on visas and promised to engage to find solutions on these other points. We welcome this and we will work with them.

In conclusion, these talks have been constructive. We agreed to hold the next EC-Sri Lanka Joint Commission meeting next year in Brussels.

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