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Myanmar, European countries make step forward in relations

MYANMAR, EUROPEAN COUNTRIES MAKE STEP FORWARD IN RELATIONS
Date: 22/09/2010
Source: Xinhuanet
Myanmar, European countries make step forward in relations

By Feng Yingqiu

YANGON, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar and the European Union have made a step forward in their relations following the visit of President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso to Myanmar and the successive opening of embassies in Myanmar of three European countries -- Switzerland, Norway and Denmark in the weekend days.

Myanmar and the EU signed a joint declaration at the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) in Yangon on EU's support of Myanmar's peace process and offering of development assistance to the country, announcing making joint efforts in building domestic peace.

The declaration was signed by Barroso and Myanmar Minister at the President's Office U Aung Min.

The MPC was established as a platform for inclusive and non- partisan dialogue in the peace process involving ethnic rebel groups.

Both sides believed that the MPC is a key element for achieving just and lasting peace in Myanmar.

EU offered 700,000 euro for the MPC start-up, to be followed by a sizable package later this year.

In 2013, the EU will contribute 30 million euro to Myanmar's peace process, Barroso said.

Pointing that Myanmar is initiating historical reform, U Aung Min said: "We would have to bring peace to all of Myanmar citizens. Continuing domestic conflicts is a barrier to the transition."

Meeting with Myanmar President U Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw, Barroso assured of granting of Generalized System of Preference ( GSP), extending aid in capacity building of education and health staff, aid in disaster reduction and improvement of living standard.

The pair discussed efforts for bringing an end to Rakhine state crisis as well as appointment of an ambassador to EU office in Myanmar and EU support for Myanmar's reform process.

In the weekend, Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs and Federal Councilor Didier Burkhalter and Prime Ministers of Norway and Denmark Jens Stoltenberg and Helle Thorning Schmidt visited Myanmar and respectively opened the three countries' embassies in Yangon.

Burkhalter said Switzerland will provide humanitarian aid worth about 8 million U.S. dollars to Myanmar and the amount will be raised to 20 million dollars in the coming year, adding that in late 2013-2016, the aid will be increased to 35 million dollars.

Stoltenberg underlined that the opening of Norwegian Embassy in Myanmar marked improvement of bilateral relations, expressing Norway's wishes to boost trade and commercial ties between the two countries and outlining the areas of mutual cooperation in energy, hydropower, oil and gas, fishery and communication.

Stoltenberg disclosed that Norwegian companies, which are good at telecommunications, oil and gas, hydropower and fertilizer, are going to make investment in Myanmar.

Stoltenberg also offered assistance in building democracy and peace in Myanmar, pledging full support for the peace process with ethnic rebel groups and efforts to end communal violence in Rakhine state.

Schmidt hailed the establishment of the Danish Embassy in Yangon, saying that a new chapter has been opened between Myanmar and Denmark to strengthen bilateral friendship.

On the occasion, besides calling on President U Thein Sein, the EU chief, the Swiss foreign minister, and the two prime ministers of Norway and Denmark separately met with Speaker of the Lower House of Myanmar's parliament U Shwe Mann and chairperson of the Committee for Rule of Law and Tranquility of the Lower House and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Aung San Suu Kyi.

Meanwhile, more European countries such as Finland and Luxembourg have voiced promotion of economic cooperation with and investment in Myanmar when their prime ministers met U Thein Sein on the sideline of the current 9th Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos.

Opening a new chapter in bilateral relations, Myanmar is set to profit from a preferential trade arrangement with the EU following recognition by the international community of the country's recent democratic and economic reforms.

EU foreign ministers announced in Luxembourg on April 23 suspension of most sanctions against Myanmar for a year except arms embargo.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton visited Myanmar in April, opened EU representative office in Yangon and brought a package of up to 150 million euro in agricultural development aid.

The European Commission in September adopted a proposal to bring Myanmar back under a preferential trade regime granting duty- free and quota-free access to the European market, beginning in 2013.

EU's investment in Myanmar from Britain, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Denmark and Cyprus amounted to about 3.47 billion U.S. dollars as of the end of 2011, accounting for 8.5 percent of the total foreign investment in Myanmar.


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