EU pledges economic assistance to Myanmar

Featured South East Asia - March 6th, 2013
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The European Union pledged to offer economic assistance to Myanmar during the fourth leg of President Thein Sein’s historic trip to Europe.

The Myanmar leader arrived in Brussels after visiting Austria, where he asked President Heinz Fischer to “cooperate” after urging the bloc to lift sanctions on the impoverished country. He met successively with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, EU president Herman Van Rompuy and foreign policy chief Catherine Aston.

“You have in the European Union a committed and long-term partner for the historic journey that Myanmar and its people have started,” Van Rompuy told Thein Sein.

The EU suspended its sanctions on the once-isolated nation following similar steps taken by the US to reward the rapidly reforming country.

Development aid from the EU has more than doubled to around 200 million euros between 2012 and 2013. Brussels said it was now ready to consider bilateral investment agreement.

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

Van Rompuy said there are still challenges, citing the the ongoing conflict in the northern state of Kachin and sectarian violence in the western state of Rakhine. Brussels reiterated that it would continue monitoring minority rights.

Thein Sein vowed to “strengthen democracy” and lauded the government’s efforts in reducing “a culture of fear”.