EU set to lift Myanmar sanctions, except arms embargo

Featured South East Asia - April 22nd, 2013

The European Union is expected to lift all sanctions on Myanmar next week in recognition of the reformist government’s efforts to push for democracy.

The decision to dismantle all sanctions, with the exception of an arms embargo, must be unanimous, and is likely after EU ambassadors agreed on the step last week, paving the way for a ministerial approval on Monday.

Sanctions will lapse permanently on April 30 and will encourage European companies to invest in Myanmar, which has significant natural resources and borders economic giants China and India, reports Reuters.

A separate move to restore preferential trade access for Myanmar to EU markers – suspended under the previous military regime – is also expected after approval by European parliament in coming weeks.

The move is seen as a breakthrough in Myanmar’s ties with the 27-nation European Union and leaves the US as the only key western state to maintain sanctions on the country.

“The EU is willing to open a new chapter in its relations with Myanmar, building a lasting partnership,” said the document seen by Reuters which contains the draft conclusions for Monday’s EU foreign ministers’ meeting.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Myanmar President Thein Sein pledged to step up the pace of reform and counter the waves of racial and religious violence in the country.

“Only when we have real economic progress will the democratic process flourish. The suspension of EU and US sanctions would help greatly with our difficulties,” he said.