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News


Clandestine EU mission in Colombo

   GSP+ in crisis                                                                                                                                 

By Munza Mushtaq
A covert European Union (EU) fact-finding mission in Colombo has warned that the government’s lukewarm response towards addressing substantial issues in the backdrop of a worsening human rights record is set to affect the country big time, resulting in a severe economic impact via the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+).

The fact-finding, team led by several visiting European diplomats who had met both local and foreign human rights activists over the past few days, had warned of severe consequences in the future if the President Mahinda Rajapaksa-led government fails to get its act together, pronto, The Nation learns.

“The lukewarm attitude adopted by the government can result in a severe impact on Sri Lanka with the country losing the GSP+ benefit,” the diplomats have warned.

The delegation visiting the island to assess action taken by the government so far to address the faltering human rights situation in the country has categorically emphasised that they have not seen any encouraging step on the part of the government so far towards addressing human rights violations.

The withdrawal of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) and the international humanitarian organisation Action Against Hunger from Sri Lanka, which incidentally took place during the team’s visit to Colombo, have made matters worse and has reflected very negatively against the country and the government, highly placed political sources said.

The Nation reliably learns that the team’s visit to the country was carried out clandestinely with the actual reason for their visit not being given to the Sri Lankan authorities.

The team, it is learnt, included a special representative of an EU Foreign Minister who represents a special fact-finding committee tied to the GSP+. It is reliably understood that the membership in the committee includes Germany, France and Denmark.

Meanwhile, amidst this latest development, the government has kicked off fresh efforts to reach out to EU Parliamentarians.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Brussels Ravinatha Aryasinha has urged Members of the European Parliament to lend their voice to bring in objectivity to the GSP+ review process.

He noted that it was unfortunate that the different requirements in the GSP+ regulation were not given equal focus.
Drawing attention to the numerous steps taken by the government to achieve high standards with regard to human rights, environment, labour and good governance – the stipulated criteria for the receipt of GSP+ advantages – Aryasinha claimed that all this made Sri Lanka a credible trading partner for the EU.

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