Friday, April 19, 2013

EU to lift sanctions as part of sea-change in ties with Myanmar

The European Union plans to announce a sea-change Monday in ties with Myanmar, lifting the last of its trade, economic and individual sanctions as it embarks on a new relationship with the Southeast Asian state, diplomatic sources told AFP.

A year after first suspending sanctions against Myanmar in reward for its historic reforms, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg will announce a definitive end to restrictive measures but leave in place an arms embargo, the sources said.

"There will be a very positive message to Myanmar, hope for a new relationship" on Monday, said a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.

On April 23 last year, the ministers agreed to a one-year suspension of measures targeting almost 500 individuals and more than 800 firms to bolster a reform process which the same month saw opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's election to parliament.

Among the sanctions, hundreds of people were targeted by a travel ban and asset freeze, while on the economic front the EU had barred investments and banned imports of the country's lucrative timber, metals and gems.

During a visit to Brussels last month, the first by a Myanmar head of state, President Thein Sein urged the EU to lift sanctions, saying "we are one of the poorest countries in the world."

He received pledges of EU economic assistance coupled with calls to protect his country's ethnic minorities.

Since the former premier took over the presidency in March 2011, thousands of political prisoners have been released and elections held.

EU development aid since has more than doubled to around 150 million euros for 2012-2013, with Brussels pledging to explore the feasibility of a bilateral investment agreement.

The EU has also offered to reinstate a preferential tariffs deal with Yangon.-Channel News Asia (April 19, 2013)

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