Thursday, February 26, 2009

EU presidency urges Burma to implement political reforms

New Delhi, Feb 26  : The European Union’s current Presidency in a statement on Monday urged Burma’s military government to release all political prisoners, including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, lift all restrictions on political parties and embark on a dialogue with opposition groups.

“The Presidency of the EU, strongly calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and detainees, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, lifting of all restrictions on political parties, and an all-inclusive dialogue between the authorities and the democratic forces, including ethnic groups,” the statement said.

From January to June 2009, the Czech Republic holds the EU Presidency and will later transfer it to Sweden, in the second half of 2009. The Czech Republic has been supporting the Burmese democratic movement and has lately accepted Burmese refugees into its country.

Its former President Václav Havel along with South African Arch Bishop Desmond Tu Tu, in September 2005, published a report on Burma, titled, “Threat to Peace” and called for the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution against Burma’s military rulers.

The statement said, the Presidency recalled the United Nations General Assembly resolution, which stated that the political process in Burma was "not transparent, inclusive, free and fair, and that the procedures established for the drafting of the constitution, resulted in the de facto exclusion of the opposition from the process.”

The Presidency also shared the view expressed by Gambari, the UN Secretary-General’s special advisor on Burma, that it was time for Burma to demonstrate its commitment in “addressing concretely the issues of concern to the international community.”

The EU, since 1996, has had a common position on Burma, which includes economic sanctions, an arms embargo and visa bans on Burmese military officials and their family members. The common position also restricts visits to Burma, by high-level officials from EU member states.

The EU further tightened its sanctions on Burma following the junta’s crackdown on monk-led demonstrators in September 2007.

However, in response to the humanitarian crisis due to Cyclone Nargis, the European Commission provided Euro 39 million (USD 50 million) for the initial recovery project in 2008.

During the weekend, Germany’s Members of the Parliamentary Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development, Jürgen Klimke and Hellmut Königshaus, visited Burma’s Irrawaddy delta, where Cyclone Nargis had struck, to see the process of recovery work being done by the Tripartite Core Group, formed with the UN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Burmese junta.

It is the second visit by an European high-level delegation. Last month, the Minister of Environment and International Development of Norway, Erik Solheim, and Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark, Ulla Toernaes, visited the delta to assess the progress of Post-Nargis response and future recovery needs.

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