Lanka invites EU for mega development projects

Sri Lanka, which is urging the European Union not to ban preferential tariffs for exports after August this year, has also invited it to be partners in an ambitious three year development plan costing three billion US dollars.

The call was made when top-level talks were held in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. A-four member delegation led by Attorney General Mohan Peiris held talks with Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.

The purpose of the Sri Lankan mission was to persuade the EU to continue the GSP Plus facility.
The three year-development programme will also figure during talks with Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda who will arrive in Colombo on Wednesday for a two-day visit.

Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera, a member of the delegation which held talks in Brussels, extended the invitation for EU participation during the talks with Dr. Georgiva.

The delegation including External Affairs Ministry Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe went to Brussels to follow up on an earlier visit aimed at persuading the EU to reverse its decision to suspend GSP Plus trade concessions.

Associated with the Sri Lankan delegation at the meeting were Sri Lanka’s EU Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, the External Affairs Ministry’s European Desk Chief Manisha Gunasekera and the Brussel’s mission’s Second Secretary Madhuka Wicrkemarachchi. Dr Jayasundera informed the EU that the number of internally displaced people had now come to 30,000 from the 250,000 in September last year and those remaining were being resettled.

“The Government is confident that by the end of the year all the people in the camps would have moved back to their original homes,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by Sri Lanka’s mission in Belgium.

Attorney General Pieris told Commissioner Georgiva that with Sri Lanka now well on the way to sustainable recovery, the government and the people were increasingly focusing on reaping the peace dividend, while going for restorative justice to strengthen national amity.

He referred to several measures taken by the government in the past year including reviewing emergency regulations, amending some and repealing some on the basis of a clear improvement in the security environment.

Another important measure, he said was the establishment of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which comprises eight Sri Lanka personalities selected for their eminence, while being representative of the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural character of Sri Lanka.

Complementing these measures was the National Action Plan on Human Rights (NAPHR), which having been developed in consultation with civil society, was now under consideration for submission to the Cabinet, he said.

The statement said Commissioner Georgiva thanked the visiting Sri Lanka delegation for their comprehensive briefing and noted that a team of European Commission officials who recently visited Sri Lanka had also confirmed the significant improvements being made on the ground. She indicated that she would explore the possibility of visiting Sri Lanka to strengthen her understanding of the issues involved.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka and the EU have agreed to continue their dialogue on human rights in the context of securing the GSP Plus preferential trade benefits for country beyond August 2010, when a possible suspension of the facility may come into effect.

“There was positive movement during the talks,” a source associated with the delegation said.In a joint statement, the two sides said “the meeting focused on Sri Lanka's recent actions and intentions, in particular relating to those areas highlighted by the report of the European Commission.

”The issues on which the EU has expressed its concern are the continuation of emergency rule in the country as well as a probe into alleged human rights abuses during the last stages of the war.

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