EU pledges GSP+ concessions, approves $100m for Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Saturday, 10 May 2008, 03:12 GMT]
The European Union wants Sri Lanka to receive GSP+ concession, the EU Ambassador in Sri Lanka Julian Wilson said this week, according to press reports Saturday. The EU has approved $100m in humanitarian and development funds for Sri Lanka, the Daily Mirror paper quoted him as saying. "I will only say that a lot of melodramatic rubbish has been written about the renewal of GSP+ in local press. The truth is simple if somewhat banal-the EU wants Sri Lanka to receive GSP+ again for the coming three years,” Mr. Wilson said at an EU event on Thursday.

Mr. Wilson also said that the EU has given substantial development assistance to Sri Lanka with over one billion US$ in grants and subsidized loans over the last few years, specially for conflict and tsunami reconstruction in the South, East and North of Sri Lanka .

“We have approved this year a further instalment of over 100 million US$ in humanitarian and longer term development funds to be spent over the coming two years,” he said.

Also speaking at the function, Sri Lankan Minister M. H. Mohamed said the outcome of the EU -Sri Lanka Joint Commission will have a positive impact on Sri Lanka’s application at the next revision of the EU GSP+ scheme scheduled to takeplace at the end of this year.

Main opposition United National party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had on an earlier occasion said he is planning to meet with representatives of the European Union to secure a renewal of the GSP+ facility, the paper said.

Mr. Wickremesinghe had said he will take up the responsibility after setting aside political differences for the betterment of the garments industry, despite the lackadaisical attitude of the President Mahinda Rajapakse and his United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government.

The GSP+, preferential trade scheme from the EU allows Sri Lanka to export 7,200 items duty free into the EU and is credited with helping to boost Sri Lankan exports. The scheme is to be reviewed this year for its extension for another three years.

For eligibility, recipient countries need to have ratified 27 international conventions on human rights, labour standards, environmental protection, and governance principles by 31 December 2008.

Given the widespread allegations of human rights violations by the Rajapskse government, there has been much speculation recently that the European scheme may not be extended to Sri Lanka after the end of this year.

However, the European Commission maintains that whilst the continuation of the GSP+ scheme depends on the implementation of the 27 conventions, it does not expect “absolute compliance.”

“No one expects absolute compliance. This would be unfair but we need to be clear that there would be an objective assessment on the implementation of these conventions,” said Peter Maher, Head of Operations of the Delegation of the European Commission to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, recently.

Among the “core human and labour rights UN/ILO Conventions that must be ratified and effectively implemented for GSP Plus to apply” are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.


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