Monday, April 23, 2012

E.U. suspends Burmese sanctions

Monday, 23 April 2012 18:21 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – The E.U. followed through on Monday and suspended trade, economic and individual sanctions against Burma for one year, while leaving the arms embargo in effect.

A diplomat told Agence France Presse the 27-nation bloc agreed to a one-year suspension of measures against almost 500 individuals and more than 800 firms.

The European flag - 12 gold star in circle, on a blue background Photo: E.U.

The decisions are intended to encourage more democratic reforms in Burma and reward the government for a wide range of changes to the repressive laws put in place by the former military junta.

The E.U. “will monitor closely the situation on the ground, keep its measures under constant review and respond positively to progress on ongoing reforms,” according to a E.U. statement.

Also on Monday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party refused to take the oath to be sworn in a newly elected Members of Parliament, because of a disagreement with the wording of the oath that requires lawmakers to "safeguard" an army-created Constitution. Suu Kyi has asked that the government change the word to “respect,” because her party wants to propose changes to the Constitution.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron immediately welcomed the E.U. move.

“I welcome today's decision by our E.U. partners to support the U.K.'s call to suspend sanctions against Burma,” he said in a statement. Cameron has proposed that the U.K. also suspend its sanctions rather than remove them entirely, as a means to keep pressure on Burma to continue the reform process.

Burma has taken "important steps towards reform in Burma and it is right for the world to respond to them. But those changes are not yet irreversible, which is why it is right to suspend rather than lift sanctions for good," he said.

The E.U. was expected to suspend restrictions on trade and investment with more than 800 companies in the logging, timber processing and mining sectors.

The E.U. was also set to lift a ban on investment in 52 companies controlled by the Myanmar regime and reverse an asset ban and travel freeze on 491 people in or close to the regime.

Rajat Nag of the Asian Development Bank told the BBC that the E.U. move “will enable the international organizations, such as us, to get re-engaged.”

“The challenges are huge and have to be addressed on a very broad front. But it has to start with engagement of the international community,” he said.

Burma began its democratic reforms with the installation of the new government led by President Thein Sein in November 2010, after almost 50 years of direct military rule.

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