SL will accede to EU requests, with qualifications — Minister

Published : 8:54 am  January 18, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 


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By Sandun A Jayasekera   
The Sri Lankan government would accede to the requests of the European Union (EU) in accordance with the law of the land and the Constitution. But it must obtain the approval of the Cabinet and Parliament before any request is granted, said the State Minister of Finance, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana yesterday. DM_20170118_A001-177

 Addressing the media, he said the EU had made certain requests which Sri Lanka could not agree to under any circumstances — such as the right to engage in homosexual acts — in order to grant the GSP+ facility.   He said it was unfair to make  requests that directly affect the religious, social and cultural sentiments of the people and that the government would implement those that could be implemented without harming the interests of any community.   “Some proposals made by the EU have not been accepted even by certain EU countries. It is extremely difficult for Sri Lanka to go ahead with some. That is why the Cabinet decided to remove clauses 6.1 to 6.8 of the proposals,” he said.   

He said the EU had not made any demands or placed conditions to renew GSP+ as certain anti-national, anti-government elements and the joint opposition tried to make out, but only made a few requests which the government had flatly rejected.   

He said it was extremely unfair and anti-national to try to belittle the EU’s decision to positively consider the renewal of GSP+ which was suspended in 2010 following the dismal human rights, fundamental rights and labour rights record of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.   ”In fact, the renewal of the GSP+ is a big boost to the unity government’s development drive and reconciliation process. The minimum increase of export revenue would be between US$ 1.5 and 2 billion annually, with the possibility of further increase. Sri Lanka will have tax free access to the EU for 7,200 products. Due to the suspension of the GSP+ Sri Lanka had annually lost US$ 782 million, as Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU accounted for 66% of the total exports. Therefore it is extremely treacherous and malicious to say that Sri Lanka did not suffer much from the suspension,” he said. He added that the EU had commended Sri Lanka for taking important steps to improve human rights and extend good governance. A significant development was the 19th Constitutional amendment, which re-established the independence of key institutions (such as the National Human Rights Commission).

Sri Lanka had also taken concrete action to ensure that cases of missing persons were examined; offer better protection to witnesses and victims; release persons detained under the controversial anti-terrorism regulations and combat child labour. Sri Lanka had also re-engaged with the UN system, in particular the UN Human Rights Council, where it has made commitments to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights. Moreover, Sri Lanka had achieved most of its Millennium Development Goals, especially in health, education and gender equality, he said.   Yet more needs to be done to improve issues of concern. Sri Lanka must ensure its counter-terrorism legislation is fully in line with international human rights conventions. As a matter of priority, it must put a definitive stop to the use of torture by security forces and the related impunity. The government must also see through policy and legislative processes to improve the rights of women and children, especially with regard to discrimination, domestic violence, minimum age of marriage, sexual exploitation. It must also end the harassment of trade unions. All these would be subject to GSP+ monitoring to ensure that progress continues to be made.   The EU is Sri Lanka’s biggest export market accounting for nearly one-third of Sri Lanka’s global exports. In 2015, total bilateral trade amounted to €4.7 billion. EU imports from Sri Lanka amounted to €2.6 billion and consisted mainly of apparel, rubber products and machinery.   
Pic. by Nisal Baduge