José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr U Thein Sein, President of Myanmar
5 March 2013
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to welcome President Thein Sein to Brussels. This is a historic visit. This is the first time a President of Myanmar visits the European Union.
Our meeting takes place after my visit to Myanmar, last November, where I had the chance of witnessing first-hand the historical changes that are taking place in the country. I have also on this occasion extended an invitation for President Thein Sein to come to Brussels and I am glad he could do it in such a short time.
As I had the occasion to convey to you last November we strongly support the sustained pace of reform in Myanmar; it offers both a new perspective to your country and to your people, and also to your relations with the European Union and the rest of the world. Definitely, peace, democracy and social and economic development go hand in hand.
In a world in turmoil with some very worrying developments, it is encouraging to see that positive change is also happening in Myanmar. It shows once again that peace and democracy are human aspirations, it shows that a country’s political system is not a fatality that people have to endure, but a reality that can be changed and it shows that decisive political leadership from the top makes a world of difference. I commend you for this leadership Mr President.
Today, the President of Myanmar and I discussed the on-going efforts of Myanmar's government for political, social and economic reforms. The President has presented his vision and his current priorities, including how to promote peace, democracy and address poverty and I really want to thank the President for the very open way in which he presented the situation in his country and how he sees the most important challenges ahead.
Despite the impressive change that is underway the reforms and the transition are not completed. Significant challenges lie in the way, such as the general improvement of fundamental freedoms, especially minority rights; addressing the humanitarian situation in the Kachin and Rakhine States, ending conflicts and consolidating peace and deepening the democratic reforms with a view to the 2015 elections. These are challenging tasks that need to be completed. But the authorities have shown they have the courage to face them and after the talks I just had with President Thein Sein I am really convinced of their determination in that direction.
The European Union is very well aware that Myanmar will need support from the international community in facing these challenges. The EU will continue to play a lead role in the international community in this respect.
We are actively supporting the Myanmar Peace Centre, - which I inaugurated last November - as a central element in Myanmar's peace project.
We will work with the Myanmar electoral commission to be sure that 2015 elections will meet the highest international standards.
EU development cooperation has more than doubled in value and its scope has expanded. A package of €150 million for the country's democratic reform is being geared to be in line with Myanmar’s national development plans.
5.5 million euros of additional funding were made available by the European Union to support the internal displaced in Rakhine State from both communities (Rohingya and Rakhine),
Economic openness is also part and parcel of the political change. This is why the Commission has proposed to reinstate Generalised Scheme of Preferences to Myanmar. And today we have agreed to explore the feasibility of a bilateral Investment agreement. And a joint mission led by the High Representative/Vice-President Ashton and Vice-President Tajani will travel to country later in the year with further concrete support to the economic and political modernisation in the country.
The EU and Myanmar are turning a page in their relationship. We want to increase our collaboration with the Government and people of Myanmar: more dialogue, more and better aid, more trade and investment and more people to people contacts.
For the first time in its recent history, your country has a real chance to achieve peace. You are driving change in Myanmar. This is a significant opportunity that will transform your promising country and will have wider repercussions in the region. I commend your personal engagement, and you can rest assured that we in the European Union will do our best to support this historical plight of the people of Myanmar.
I thank you for your attention.