- “This is a journey we are undertaking as partners” – INTA Standing Rapporteur
- Says certain political elements trying to mislead public on EU’s role in SL
From left: Visiting European Parliament Committee on International Trade Chairperson Jan Zahradil, EU Ambassador for Sri Lanka and Maldives Tung-Laï Margue and INTA Standing Rapporteur for South Asia Sajjad Karim
Pic by Pradeep Pathirana
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
A delegation of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) currently in Colombo stressed that the European Union (EU) demand “nothing” from Sri Lanka and assistance would only be extended if the island nation is willing to accept such.
They said it is important to “dispel the myth” that Sri Lanka is being compelled by external parties to meet certain demands.
“The language is very important. We have heard the use of the phrase in parliamentary debates that the ‘EU demands.’ We demand nothing.
“This is a journey we are undertaking as partners; as equal partners with Sri Lanka in order to arrive ultimately at a place where we have a strong, open, vibrant, and tolerant Sri Lanka—a Sri Lanka that is providing opportunities for its citizens and is raising living standards,” INTA Standing Rapporteur for South Asia Sajjad Karim told reporters in Colombo.
He said it is “quite clear” to the EU that certain sections of the political discourse in Sri Lanka want to put in the minds of the general public that there are demands that are being made by the EU and possibly elsewhere as well.
Karim stated that to take the economy to the next level, Sri Lanka wants to lift its standards for itself and the EU is of the view that the people of Sri Lanka are committed to raising their own standards, the country’s standards and thereby their living standards.
Strengthening the EU’s message to Sri Lanka was also the delegation head Jan Zahradil who stressed that the EU comes to Sri Lanka as “friends, allies and as partners”.
“We are keen to cooperate with Sri Lanka to keep GSP Plus alive. We are certain it will happen. We are not here to master anyone, teach anyone or headline any newspaper that this is another EU scrutiny on Sri Lanka. We are not here for that. We are here to communicate, if necessary to help and assist,” said Zahradil.
The six-member INTA delegation arrived in Sri Lanka on Wednesday to follow up on Sri Lanka›s commitments made in exchange for access to the EU market through the GSP Plus scheme.
Their tone was certainly different from the tone of the 4-member delegation of the European Parliament that visited Sri Lanka last November, who expressed disappointment over the pace of Sri Lanka’s political reform process in return for having the GSP Plus reinstated.
The INTA delegation however said they were pleased to note that the trade between Sri Lanka and the EU now has a positive trajectory.
They also pointed out the need for further progress in implementing the international human rights conventions and labour conditions relevant to GSP Plus.
The delegation met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other key figures in the government which included Speaker of Parliament, Opposition Leader, Minister of Trade and Development, Minister of Law and Order and Minister of Labour.