By Sandun A. Jayasekera
The European Union (EU) is concerned about the continuation of the imposition of Emergency Regulations and the detention of DNA leader General Sarath Fonseka under military custody, but not in a position to dictate to Sri Lanka on its domestic affairs, Head of the delegation of the EU Commission, Bernard Savage said.
“It is up to Sri Lanka to meet the conditions expected by the EU. A firm decision has been taken by the EU to withdraw the GSP+ facility from August. If Sri Lanka keeps its house in order pertaining to the issues like human and labor rights and media freedom, the EU will positively review the situation in a later date and it will be helpful to regain the trade facility,” Mr. Savage in an exclusive interview with Daily Mirror.
When suggested that there was a public perception in Sri Lanka that the EU has a negative attitude towards Sri Lanka like the US, Mr. Savage said “It was a business like relationship”.
‘I can’t comment on the public perception. However, the attitude of the EU towards Sri Lanka at large and President Mahinda Rajapaksa administration is clearly reflected on the statement by Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the EU on April 13 on Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Elections results.
"In the statement she has congratulated President Rajapaksa on his electoral success and expressed hopes to work with the newly elected Sri Lankan government in addition to looking forward to the implementation of Sri Lanka’s ambitious political agenda including the national reconciliation", Mr. Savage stressed.
A dialogue between Brussels and Sri Lankan authorities has been initiated to review the EU recommendations. The discussions held in Brussels with the first official delegation have been fruitful.
The Government in March sent a high powered official delegation headed by Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B.Jayasundara to Brussels to discuss the GSP+ and other related matters in order to get a more active support from the EU for the reconstruction and reconciliation in post conflict Sri Lanka.
Mr. Savage said the March talks were positive and another team of top officials is scheduled to pay a visit to the EU in May but declined to elaborate.
He expressed hopes to arrive at a mutual agreement on the GSP+ issue on the common objectives of the two sides enabling the EU to re-visit the situation. This will also give Sri Lanka another opportunity to meet the conditions laid down by the EU.
Commenting on the reported moves by the government to introduce constitutional amendments to make way for President Rajapaksa to contest in the Presidential election for the third time, Mr. Savage said as long as it does not violate the Constitution and fulfills the aspirations of the people in the country there was not issue there.
“It is not proper for me to comment on this issue. What is most important is the desire of the people. Besides, the government is capable of introducing any changes to the Constitution if it enjoys a 2/3 majority in Parliament. But the basic law must be respected and safeguarded", Mr. Savage emphasized.