EU ready for dialogue

By Easwaran Rutnam

Despite the government saying it will not have further dialogue with the European Union (EU) to seek an extension of the GSP plus trade benefits, the EU says it is willing to hold further talks on the matter if the Sri Lankan government so wishes.

The Brussels based European Commission press officer for Trade Marie Antonie Kerwien speaking to Daily Mirror online said that so far, the government of Sri Lanka has made its views known only to the media and so the EU would therefore prefer to attend the official answer of Sri Lanka before communicating its next step.

However the press officer noted that the European Commission remains committed to support Sri Lanka in its efforts to tackle the challenges it faces in terms of human rights, reconstruction and reconciliation and if Sri Lanka so wishes, is ready to continue the dialogue on the necessary steps to bring the country into compliance with the relevant international conventions and to become again eligible for GSP+ benefits in the future.

The spokesperson stressed that so far discussions with high-level Sri Lankan officials have been held in a constructive atmosphere with a view to agreeing a set of rapid, verifiable and sustainable measures to address failings identified in the European Commission investigation.

In their letter EU High Representative/Vice-President Catherine Ashton and Commissioner De Gucht invited the Government of Sri Lanka to respond to the concerns by 1st of July and give a written commitment to implement some recommendations in order to obtain a temporary extension of the GSP for the country which ends in August this year.

However External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris told reporters this week that the cabinet which convened under President Mahinda Rajapakse on Wednesday had strongly rejected the conditions put forward by the EU.

Minister Peiris said that among the conditions put forward by the EU was for the government to remove the emergency regulations, repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the implementation of the 17th amendment.

The Minister further said that the government will not continue dialogue with the EU on the specific matter of the GSP plus trade benefits.  (Daily Mirror online)

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