Myanmar asks for more EU support

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Thein Sein Manuel Barroso
Thein Sein (right) holding talks with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso

On his historic trip to the European Union, Myanmar’s president Thein Sein on March 5 asked the bloc to lift sanctions against his country and collaborate in trade and investment, according to media reports. He received pledges from EU leaders on closer cooperation and economic support for his country.

“The EU wants to step up cooperation and develop a partnership with the government and people of Myanmar, focusing on enhancing democracy and human rights, developing the economy and bringing our societies closer together,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters after a meeting with Thein Sein.

The Myanmar leader, on his first visit to Europe, also met the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton.

“The EU and Myanmar are turning a page in their relationship,” said Barroso. “With more dialogue, more and better aid, more trade and investment.”

While EU development aid has more than doubled to around 200 million euros for 2012-2013, Brussels said it was now ready to explore the feasibility of a bilateral investment agreement.

With regards to lifting trade sanctions, the EU in April 2012 rewarded Myanmar’s historic changes by suspending for one year a wide range of trade, economic and individual sanctions and said it would “monitor closely the situation on the ground, keep its measures under constant review.”

Thein Sein complained however of continuing economic sanctions against the country, saying “we are one of the poorest countries in the world.”

Brussels  made clear it was monitoring minority rights, notably the ongoing conflict in the northern state of Kachin, and communal Buddhist-Muslim unrest in the western state of Rakhine, where the bloc has provided some 5.5 million euros to help the internally displaced from both communities.

However, the European Union’s representative to Myanmar, Andreas List, expected the sanctions to be completely lifted by the end of April 2013, Austrian daily Wiener Zeitung reported on March 4.

Thein Sein visited Norway, Finland and Austria and will end his 10-day trip in Italy.

A delegation of 40 Austrian companies had met up with Thein Sein in Naypyidaw in February, where an invitation to visit Austria had been extended to the president. During the visit, the Austrian turbine manufacturer Andritz opened a representative office in Yangon. Thein Sein reinforced proof of Myanmar’s interest by visiting two hydro power stations in Austria on March 3, a day ahead of formal talks.

Bilateral trade with Austria has been marginal at best and has reached around $13 million in 2012, according to the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thein Sein (right) holding talks with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso

On his historic trip to the European Union, Myanmar’s president Thein Sein on March 5 asked the bloc to lift sanctions against his country and collaborate in trade and investment, according to media reports. He received pledges from EU leaders on closer cooperation and economic support for his country.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thein Sein Manuel Barroso
Thein Sein (right) holding talks with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso

On his historic trip to the European Union, Myanmar’s president Thein Sein on March 5 asked the bloc to lift sanctions against his country and collaborate in trade and investment, according to media reports. He received pledges from EU leaders on closer cooperation and economic support for his country.

“The EU wants to step up cooperation and develop a partnership with the government and people of Myanmar, focusing on enhancing democracy and human rights, developing the economy and bringing our societies closer together,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters after a meeting with Thein Sein.

The Myanmar leader, on his first visit to Europe, also met the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton.

“The EU and Myanmar are turning a page in their relationship,” said Barroso. “With more dialogue, more and better aid, more trade and investment.”

While EU development aid has more than doubled to around 200 million euros for 2012-2013, Brussels said it was now ready to explore the feasibility of a bilateral investment agreement.

With regards to lifting trade sanctions, the EU in April 2012 rewarded Myanmar’s historic changes by suspending for one year a wide range of trade, economic and individual sanctions and said it would “monitor closely the situation on the ground, keep its measures under constant review.”

Thein Sein complained however of continuing economic sanctions against the country, saying “we are one of the poorest countries in the world.”

Brussels  made clear it was monitoring minority rights, notably the ongoing conflict in the northern state of Kachin, and communal Buddhist-Muslim unrest in the western state of Rakhine, where the bloc has provided some 5.5 million euros to help the internally displaced from both communities.

However, the European Union’s representative to Myanmar, Andreas List, expected the sanctions to be completely lifted by the end of April 2013, Austrian daily Wiener Zeitung reported on March 4.

Thein Sein visited Norway, Finland and Austria and will end his 10-day trip in Italy.

A delegation of 40 Austrian companies had met up with Thein Sein in Naypyidaw in February, where an invitation to visit Austria had been extended to the president. During the visit, the Austrian turbine manufacturer Andritz opened a representative office in Yangon. Thein Sein reinforced proof of Myanmar’s interest by visiting two hydro power stations in Austria on March 3, a day ahead of formal talks.

Bilateral trade with Austria has been marginal at best and has reached around $13 million in 2012, according to the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.

 

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