By Jamila Najmuddin
The European Union has welcomed Sri Lanka’s desire to continue negotiations on retaining the GSP Plus trade concessions and hopes a mutual desire to see the values of democracy and respect for human rights strengthened will overcome short-term tensions between the two sides.
European Parliament Member and South Asian Delegation Chair Ms. Jean Lambert, in an email interview with Daily Mirror online, said she hopes the temporary suspension of GSP Plus can result in improvements in Sri Lanka.
EU Member States had earlier this week decided to temporarily withdraw preferential tariff benefits to Sri Lanka under a special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance, known as GSP plus.
Ms. Jean Lambert said that the European Parliament takes the view that if human rights clauses in any agreement are to mean anything, then the EU has to be prepared to take action when human rights are persistently not respected.
“Sri Lanka's desire to enter into discussions at this stage is welcome, if overdue. As to how relations between the EU and Sri Lanka might be affected, it is worth remembering that other agreements still exist. While relations may be uncomfortable, I would hope that a mutual desire to see the values of democracy and respect for human rights strengthened will overcome what I hope will be a short-term tension,” she told Daily Mirror online.
The EU Parliamentarian also noted that the decision to suspend GSP was based on an evaluation which predates the arrest of General Sarath Fonseka. However, she noted that the arrest of a leading opposition figure before a General election generally raises questions about motivation.
She also noted that the freedom of the press was one area considered when suspending GSP Plus for Sri Lanka apart from other areas still of concern which will be looked at in the near future.
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