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UK Government: ‘Tangible Progress’ Needed Before EU Eases Burma Sanctions

By Burma Campaign UK  •  February 12, 2010

The Burma Campaign UK today welcomed a statement by Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis MP that; “The UK will not support any easing of sanctions in the absence of tangible progress on the ground.”

On Thursday the European Parliament also called on EU governments not to relax sanctions until there is; ‘tangible progress on democratisation.’

The UK government statement came in a Parliamentary Written Answer in response to a question by Stephen Crabb MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group For Democracy in Burma.

The European Union has a joint foreign policy on Burma, known as the Common Position on Burma. All 27 EU members jointly agree the policy, which is renewed each April. Discussions will start soon about renewing the Common Position.

The official EU policy is to increase pressure if there is no change in Burma, and relax pressure in response to positive change. This is the same policy as the USA, which has had a recent attempt to increase dialogue with Burma’s generals rebuffed.

“The Burma Campaign UK welcomes the British government’s sensible approach on EU sanctions,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK. “EU sanctions need to start being used proactively as leverage to extract concessions from Burma’s generals. To lift sanctions at a time when the regime continues with horrific human rights abuses and defies the United Nations would send the wrong signal to the Generals. They would see it as encouragement to continue their rule.”

Some EU governments, such as Germany, Austria and Italy, have favoured relaxing sanctions, as they put business interests in Asia ahead of human rights in Burma. In addition, European Commission staff publicly and privately undermine the official EU position on Burma.

The main EU sanctions include an arms embargo, visa ban, and ban on imports of gems, precious stones and timber. However, Germany has reportedly exported duel use technology (could be used for military purposes) to Burma, and the import ban has no enforcement mechanisms, and gems are openly exported to European countries.

“We appreciate that at the current time there is little hope that the EU will finally introduce the kind of financial sanctions we have been calling for, which would have a bigger impact on the generals,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK. “However, it would be nice if the EU would consider actually implementing and enforcing sanctions that they do have.”

For more information contact Zoya Phan on 020 7324 4710


Full Question And Answer From Hansard Parliamentary Record:

10 Feb 2010 : Column 980W

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will seek to secure EU targeted sanctions against the government of Burma until the human rights situation in Burma improves. [316581]

Mr. Ivan Lewis:
The Government continue to believe that targeted EU sanctions against the military regime in Burma are an important means of maintaining pressure for political reform and respect for human rights. Sanctions introduced in 1996 have been strengthened over time, notably after the Saffron Revolution in 2007, and in August 2009 in response to the guilty verdict in Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial. They are now among the EU’s toughest autonomous measures against any country. The UK will not support any easing of sanctions in the absence of tangible progress on the ground.

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