Brussels, 14 February 2012
Speaking points Press conference – EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs, Yangon, 14 February 2012
The purpose of my visit to Burma/Myanmar was to assess the ongoing reforms and encourage their continuation.
On Sunday, I met with our partners from the UN, including UN special adviser Vijay Nambiar, and international NGOs. Yesterday, in Nay Pyi Taw, I had a warm and constructive meeting with President U Thein Sein, as well as with (U Shwe Mann,) the Speaker of the Lower House, and the Ministers for Foreign Affairs (U Wunna Maung Lwin), Education, (Dr Mya Aye), of Railways, (U Aung Min), and of Health (Dr Pe Thet Khin).
I also participated in the International Conference on "Development Policy options".
Today, I met with local civil society, and I visited one of our EU funded projects in Dala Township. I also had an open and constructive meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, focusing on democracy, the rule of law and the need for free, fair and credible elections, including the full process
This gave me a more comprehensive picture. I am fairly optimistic for the future after this 3 day visit. I am impressed by the pace of change and the remarkable reforms undertaken under the President's leadership.
In Europe, the 27 Ministers of Foreign Affairs already welcomed these significant changes on 23 of January and encouraged their consolidation.
This led to an easing of sanctions. The measures will be fully reviewed in April. The conduct of the by-elections on 1st April and the release of political prisoners will influence the outcome.
In my talks with President, the Speaker of the Lower House and Senior Ministers, I raised a whole range of issues.
I commended the Government for the significant progress in advancing the peace process with armed ethnic groups, the key ingredient for stability and prosperity. We discussed the respect for Human rights, the rule of law and the release of political prisoners. Regarding the latter, the authorities confirmed their readiness to cooperate with us on remaining cases. I also encouraged them to ensure a free and fair electoral process, during the campaign and on Election Day.
The EU wants to encourage support the momentum for change, in response to progress. We will step up our dialogue, with a series of high-level visits.
I understand from my meetings that there is an appetite to put the country on the track of development and prosperity. I announced a new assistance package of €150 million for the 2 next years, which almost doubles EU aid since 1996. These funds will finance projects in the areas of Health, Education and livelihoods. They will beef up the current supported provided through the UN and NGOs since 1996.
I can tell you it achieved results since we have been able to help almost 900,00 people to cultivate the land and have access to food; to bring 6 millions children to school or training, or to treat 2 million people from malaria and 600,000 from HIV.
We also discussed options for strengthening the public administration and agreed to explore support for the peace process in the ethnic States.
I am ready to increase aid to foster Burma/Myanmar's development in the coming years. Aid is not the panacea for the country but it can act as a catalyst and prepare the ground for economic and social activities. The crucial point is to encourage foreign direct investment. This will only come when market access is restored.
However, economic development will only be successful if growth is inclusive. This means benefiting the entire population.
I hope that, after April, Burma/Myanmar and the EU can engage in a new chapter of political, economic and development cooperation. I think all the ingredients are here to make Burma/Myanmar a "success story".