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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi
19 October 2013
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Before starting with our statements to welcome Aung San Suu Kyi to the European Commission, let me tell you that I just learned about the aviation accident in Namur and I was shocked to know there were some victims. I would like to express at this moment my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims.
I remember well that not long ago she was still in house arrest with restricted civic rights. But throughout those years she was never forgotten by us and I remember to make several pleas for her release. It is therefore with immense joy that I meet her now as a free person and respected political leader of her country. What a difference!
Since we last met in November last year, when I visited Myanmar, the historical changes in the country have continued and our relations have expanded significantly – in particular with the lifting of sanctions and the reinstatement of the Generalised scheme of preferences. Myanmar is turning a page in the history of the country and we are turning a page in our bilateral relationship.
The European Union is very well aware however that the way to democratisation is still incomplete and that more needs to be done. But the will is there and Myanmar deserves the support of the international community to continue with its political and economic reform process. We will continue to play a lead role in the international community in this respect.
I am pleased that our cooperation has progressed in the area of development and humanitarian assistance and trade and investment. Our development cooperation has more than doubled in value and its scope has expanded. In the past two years we have committed 150 million in grants.
Furthermore, we are supporting peace and ethnic reconciliation. The European Union is the largest donor to Myanmar's peace support which includes support to the activities of the Myanmar Peace Centre - which I inaugurated last November - and ethnic and civil actors.
The European Union will also start to provide capacity building for the Myanmar Police Force on crowd management and community policing. This activity will also include human rights education and increasing awareness on rule of law principles and practices. This project was requested not only by the Government but also by Aung San Suu Kyi as the Chairperson of the Lower House Committee for Rule of Law.
Furthermore, we want to help you strengthen multi-party democracy. We can offer an European Election Observation Mission – this would be an expression of confidence in the process, but it requires an official invitation by the Burmese authorities. We will work with the Myanmar authorities to ensure that 2015 elections will be credible, transparent and inclusive. I attribute to this the utmost importance because it is only with elections that are considered open, democratic and fair that there is full legitimacy in the process and you can indeed say that .that democratisation is coming to a successful outcome.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi,
You rightly said once that "freedom and democracy are dreams you never give up". Thanks for never giving up. You are a living example of how a person can change the course of history. Your tireless struggle for democracy, liberty and conciliation, your impressive resilience and tremendous conviction shall inspire all of us. As I said during our meeting, your example was, I'm sure, not only a great inspiration for the people of Myanmar but all over the world, for all those that believe that the cynics are not right. That we can change the conditions when we have a strong belief and we have the courage and determination to fight for our dreams in a way that the dreams can one day become a reality. And we are here precisely to do that: to help the dream of a democratic, free, united Myanmar become a reality, for the good of its people, for all the region, and for the world.