By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The European Union representative head in Sri Lanka yesterday said Sri Lanka is on track in regaining General System of Preferences Plus (GSP Plus) facility, but cautioned that the government should not rush to submit the formal application before making sure that the whole exercise in the end is a success.
“The direction taken by the government is the right one. But is it the right time to file the application? This depends on the discussion taking place between Brussels and Colombo. Sri Lanka is certainly on track. The priority work we have done has gone well and is going well. It is at an advanced stage,” said European Union Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Sri Lanka and Maldives, David Daly, addressing the journalists in Colombo yesterday.
A meeting between the EU-Sri Lanka Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation held in Brussels on Wednesday (11 March) had successfully deliberated the nation’s intention in applying for GSP Plus status under the European Union’s GSP regulation.
A joint statement released by the government and the EU yesterday stated that positive note was taken of the fact that Sri Lanka had made significant progress in addressing outstanding issues towards launching an application, especially relating to the rule of law, democracy, governance and the overall situation pertaining to human and labour rights and environmental protection.
However, while commending the government for its fast-paced efforts in complying with the list of intentional conventions, Ambassador Daly implied that the EU would be looking beyond that.
“Sri Lanka has signed up to these 27 conventions and now the discussion is as to what degree the nation is in compliant to those. It is not about ticking the boxes in a checklist. That is not the approach to be taken,” he said.
Daly went on to assert that it is essentially a process of dialogue, cooperation and understanding the commitments the government makes.
“We are trying to help support that process. And in this regard Sri Lanka is no different from other countries. We are working to prepare the ground so that the application has a strong chance of success. That is the work we are currently engaged in,” he added.
The EU representative stressed that the GSP Plus is an “offer” to developing countries to improve their situation in human rights, legal rights and environmental standards.
“The GSP Plus is not a reward for creating a perfect country. We are essentially looking to see if the country is reaching a satisfactory level of compliance, that it has created a momentum for further improvement, that is has commitments for further improvements and on that basis we are prepared to grant GSP plus,” Daly pointed out.
EU clarifies need for abolishing PTA for GSP Plus
The EU yesterday denied having asked the government to abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) as a requirement to be eligible for the GSP Plus although it came under harsh political criticism for the same. European Union Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Sri Lanka and Maldives David Daly stressed it was not a question of abolishing the PTA but replacing the PTA with a more modern and secure legislation which meets international standards. “This question doesn’t come from me. It comes from the government of Sri Lanka which made the commitment in this direction in the joint resolution at the human rights council in Geneva in September. This is important to understand that we are not talking about issues of the EU imposing this or that. We are talking about the commitment the government has undertaken,” said Daly while clarifying the EU’s stance in this regard.
He added that by definition, security legislation has to be balanced and one that does contradict with the protection of human rights.