The Head of the Political, Trade and Communication Section of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) in Sri Lanka Paul Godfrey yesterday denied that the European Union (EU) laid down any conditions as such to Sri Lanka – 58 conditions in total as some news reports have been suggestive of – to recommend GSP + to Sri Lanka. Godfrey said the European Commission in Brussels recommended granting GSP+ preferences for Sri Lanka to support the progress of the country’s commitment to ratify and effectively implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labor conditions, protection of the environment and good governance.
Godfrey said on being asked by the Daily News if the government had agreed to comply with some 58 conditions laid down by it (the European Commission), which are said to be disadvantageous to Sri Lanka as regards its proposal to restore the GSP + tariff facility to Sri Lanka,“It is not true.”
As pointed out by Prof G L Peiris, a former External Affairs Minister of the previous regime, the current government has agreed to 58 EU conditions, such as the removal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to regain GSP+, which he said would be detrimental to the country and its sovereignty.
EU ambassador Godrey said he even spoke to his EU colleagues in Brussels regarding these 58 conditions that the reports were suggestive of and was joking with them saying that if they had recommended GSP + preferences for Sri Lanka on the basis of such proposals, they have done poorly.
European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “GSP+ preferences can make a significant contribution to Sri Lanka’s economic development by increasing exports to the EU market. But, this also reflects the way in which we want to support Sri Lanka in implementing human rights, rule of law and good governance reforms.
“I am confident of seeing timely and substantial further progress in these areas and the GSP+ dialogue and monitoring features will support this reform process. This should include making Sri Lankan counter-terrorism legislation fully compatible with international human rights conventions,.” Malmström said.
An EU report said: “Sri Lanka had already benefited from GSP+ in the past. In 2010 the EU decided however to stop the preferential treatment for Sri Lankan imports due to the failure to address reported human rights violations in the country.
“In 2015, the new government of Sri Lanka set out a path of major reforms aiming for national reconciliation, respect of human rights, the rule of law and good governance principles, as well as sustainable economic development.”
“The Sri Lankan government applied for GSP+ in July 2016 and the Commission’s assessment has concluded that it met the GSP+ entry criteria set out in the EU regulation”.
“Sri Lanka must ensure its counter-terrorism legislation is fully in line with international human rights conventions. As a matter of priority, it must put a definitive stop to the use of torture by security forces and the related impunity.”
“The government must also see through policy and legislative processes to improve the rights of women and children, for example with regard to discrimination, domestic violence, minimum age of marriage, sexual exploitation, as well as harassment of trade unions. All of these issues would be subject to GSP+ monitoring to ensure that positive progress continues to be made.”