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Super enchancment in EU-Sri Lanka relationship

super-enchancment-in-eu-sri-lanka-relationship

EU Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue 

 

By Nisthar Cassim

Relations between the European Union and Sri Lanka have seen super enchancment, affirms the outgoing Ambassador of the EU to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Tung-Lai Margue. The EU is by far the most important export marketplace for Sri Lanka accounting for almost 30% or Euro 2.eight billion of the entire. Ending a really profitable three-year tenure in Sri Lanka, Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue in an unique interview with the Day by day FT says for the reason that reinstatement of GSP+ in Could 2017, Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU have elevated by over 20%.

The EU can be one of many longstanding main improvement companions of Sri Lanka with a formidable portfolio of socio-economic tasks and Tung-Lai says EU has no hidden agenda as a result of partnerships are constructed on belief. “We’re a predictable and dependable accomplice,” he emphasises. 

Commending Sri Lanka’s commitments earlier than the Human Rights Council, the EU Ambassador factors out that significant and lasting reconciliation which addresses the grievances of all communities is a key problem for Sri Lanka going ahead.

He additionally stresses, “If the purpose is to remodel Sri Lanka right into a monetary, technological, and transshipment hub, then you must be open for enterprise. Protectionism and commerce are simply not appropriate.”

Following are excerpts of the interview during which Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue shares key insights to EU-Sri Lanka relations, current progress and cooperation as effectively his views on a few of Sri Lanka’s speedy and future challenges: 

Q: In comparison with pre-2015, how sturdy and progressive has EU-Sri Lanka relations been and what have been the important thing initiatives taken to strengthen EU-Sri Lanka relations?

A: Within the first few a long time we solely centered on conventional improvement help, however now we have diversified our engagement with Sri Lanka since 2015. So it isn’t simple to pinpoint particular initiatives throughout these three years as a result of this era has been notably intensive and fruitful for EU-Sri Lanka relations. However let me concentrate on 4 fundamental areas: political dialogue, improvement cooperation, financial diplomacy, and cultural diplomacy.

There was an amazing enchancment within the EU-Sri Lanka relationship over the last three to 4 years. You see this within the high-level institutional dialogues which happen frequently between Colombo and Brussels. Constructing partnerships by dialogue is a key method of the EU’s international coverage. The EU-Sri Lanka Joint Fee, as an illustration, is about constructing an equal partnership between the EU and Sri Lanka by discussing issues of mutual curiosity. 

One of many issues I’ve persistently made clear to our companions is that the EU has no hidden agenda as a result of partnerships are constructed on belief. We now have, on quite a few events, clearly articulated our core values. And that is what we convey to the desk. It’s what makes us completely different. In a really difficult international setting, we’re a predictable and dependable accomplice. That is the method I’ve been selling as EU Ambassador. 

I’ve persistently made clear to our companions is that the EU has no hidden agenda as a result of partnerships are constructed on belief. We now have, on quite a few events, clearly articulated our core values. And that is what we convey to the desk. It’s what makes us completely different. In a really difficult international setting, we’re a predictable and dependable accomplice

On improvement cooperation, the EU takes actual satisfaction in being the world’s main supplier of improvement help, that is no small factor, and now we have proved that right here in Sri Lanka. 

The EU has supplied humanitarian help within the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami and to assist communities rebuild after the warfare. However now we have turned a brand new chapter in our partnership. Our funding goes in direction of all kinds of improvement priorities recognized in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Authorities. As an example, we’re offering EUR 40 million to finance the capability improvement of native authorities to offer environment friendly companies to folks within the Northern, Jap, North Central, and Uva Provinces. 

The STRIDE mission can even assist the strengthening of native mediation boards. We’re offering EUR 30 million to construct up poor communities and develop companies within the Central and Uva Provinces, we’re offering EUR 30 million to the modernisation of the agriculture sector, serving to to hyperlink small farmers to markets each home and worldwide, bettering the chilly chain for recent produce, and bettering meals security. We now have helped to develop an overarching agricultural coverage and plan to assist its implementation by price range assist  

Because the reinstatement of GSP+, Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU have elevated by greater than 20%. The EU is by far Sri Lanka’s greatest export vacation spot with almost 30% of the entire exports going to Europe, a price of EUR 2.eight billion. I consider that GSP+ readmission got here at a important second for the Sri Lankan Authorities which was trying to strengthen its worldwide picture….Lately concluded GSP+ monitoring mission will current its evaluation to the European Parliament early subsequent yr

We now have additionally channelled EUR 15 million into constructing institutional capacities and decreasing language obstacles to strengthen reconciliation. We now have sustained our assist to strengthening civil society and human rights. We’re enterprise an evaluation of the native media panorama to assist us have interaction extra successfully with journalists and media establishments.

Along with all this now we have the continuing Commerce-related Help mission which helps Sri Lankan SMEs to beat export difficulties. The EU-funded actions are many and they’re assorted. Taken as a complete they’re a tangible demonstration of the EU’s dedication to supporting the expansion and stability of the Sri Lankan folks. 

Sri Lanka’s readmission to the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences or GSP+ scheme in Could 2017 was a key improvement throughout my tenure. I don’t suppose I can overstate the significance of the GSP+ scheme to Sri Lanka’s exports as a result of the numbers converse for themselves. Since its reinstatement, Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU have elevated by greater than 20%. The EU is by far Sri Lanka’s greatest export vacation spot with almost 30% of the entire exports going to Europe, a price of EUR 2.eight billion. That is forward of the EUR 2.four billion value of exports to the US. 

I consider that GSP+ readmission got here at a important second for the Sri Lankan Authorities which was trying to strengthen its worldwide picture. The EU recognised this effort and re-granted GSP+ with the boldness of seeing well timed and substantial progress in key areas. A just lately concluded GSP+ monitoring mission will current its evaluation to the European Parliament early subsequent yr. It is a course of that ties into our common political dialogues with the Sri Lankan Authorities.  

I prefer to congratulate Sri Lanka on being delisted from the Monetary Motion Taskforce’s Gray Checklist. That is nice information and does loads to boost the nation’s profile within the combat towards cash laundering and terrorist financing. You might recall that the EU additionally positioned Sri Lanka on a listing of third international locations with weak anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regimes. I’m assured that the FATF’s resolution will quickly be adopted by an identical resolution by the EU as effectively.

Financial diplomacy has turn out to be a key space within the EU-Sri Lanka relationship. I see the EU-Sri Lanka Investor Dialogue, which started in 2017, as a platform to translate mutual agreements into concrete actions. It’s a very direct hyperlink to speak points confronted by European companies in Sri Lanka to these chargeable for actioning authorities commitments. The discussion board proves to international buyers that they’re welcome in Sri Lanka. However let me be clear: whereas an incredible deal has been achieved to enhance the enterprise local weather, we have to work collectively to do extra and do higher. However the work achieved to-date has solely been potential due to the belief established over the previous couple of years. 

However other than politics, commerce, and improvement help, the EU Delegation throughout my time period has additionally stepped up its cultural engagement. We celebrated 10 years of the European Movie Pageant in 2017; the competition’s eleventh version simply concluded. Our annual Residing Heritage occasion has managed to convey collectively authorities, teachers, and people within the safety of cultural heritage on to a single stage. We had the Prime Minister and the Mayor of Colombo as our Chief Company. We now have additionally supported native artists and initiatives, resembling Colomboscope. We see tradition as a necessary a part of our relationship with right now’s world. It makes us a stronger and extra sovereign international actor.

And naturally now we have science and schooling exchanges. Horizon 2020 is the most important science and analysis program ever and we wish to improve Sri Lanka’s share in it. Below the Erasmus plus program, Sri Lankan universities, employees, and college students profit from numerous exchanges, capability constructing applications and scholarships within the EU, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Q: What would you single out as probably the most vital initiative throughout the previous three years?

A: I’ll do higher and level out ‘two’ vital initiatives. 

GSP+, positively. It has had a major influence on Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU. It additionally encourages the promotion of democracy and the safety of human rights as a result of commerce incentives are based mostly on respect for core UN conventions. 

You understand the world tends to see the EU primarily as a commerce accomplice, however our position is extra complicated than that and it’s quickly increasing into new areas. We recognise the worth of defending a steady worldwide order that promotes democracy and openness, together with international establishments just like the UN, the IMF, and the WTO. In fact, the EU additionally recognises the hazards of globalisation, which is why we attempt to make sure that all our partnerships are win-win conditions. For instance, we wish human rights together with social, cultural, and labour rights to be protected. We wish to be sure that expertise transfers happen. We wish mental property rights protected. We wish to be sure that financial improvement happens in a method that may be sustained.  

Significant and lasting reconciliation which addresses the grievances of all communities. It is a problem that many international locations have failed to beat. However I hope for a unique end result in Sri Lanka. The eventual lack of GSP+, due to the nation’s greater earnings standing, will damage if Sri Lanka isn’t prepared for it. So it’s essential that exporters do two issues: take most benefit of the scheme whereas getting ready for the longer term.

The second initiative I wish to spotlight is the EU’s response to a request by the Sri Lankan Authorities within the wake of the Easter Sunday terror assaults. Terrorism is an evolving menace. It has impacted each our societies, focusing on our youth. Terrorist assaults in Europe inform us that radicalisation can occur not solely in a matter of months but additionally in a matter of weeks. For this reason the EU is engaged on methods to sort out the interior and exterior dimension of the menace. Exterior our borders, we all know that the energy of our companions is our personal energy and that’s the reason we’re specializing in capability constructing, offering help within the areas of safety sector reforms, and prevention of radicalisation. 

We in a short time mobilised funding to handle Sri Lanka’s post-Easter Sunday challenges. We’re collaborating with UNODC, UNDP, and INTERPOL to assist the prevention of violent extremism and countering terrorism. We’re serving to to develop and strengthen legislation enforcement capabilities to stop and disrupt terrorism and terrorist-related actions. 

We’re supporting the federal government to develop a complete coverage and legislative framework for counter-terrorism that’s totally compliant with the rule of legislation, human rights requirements, and elementary freedoms, and bettering capacities for efficient implementation. This joint motion can even develop Sri Lanka’s means to detect the trafficking of explosives and IED elements, strengthen safety in chosen jail services, and introduce a classification system for prisoners.

Q: In your view what would you record as key achievements of Sri Lanka throughout the previous 5 years? 

A: Let me begin with a really current achievement. I prefer to congratulate Sri Lanka on being delisted from the Monetary Motion Taskforce’s Gray Checklist. That is nice information and does loads to boost the nation’s profile within the combat towards cash laundering and terrorist financing. You might recall that the EU additionally positioned Sri Lanka on a listing of third international locations with weak anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regimes. I’m assured that the FATF’s resolution will quickly be adopted by an identical resolution by the EU as effectively. 

I feel the tourism sector have to be singled out for some reward. The sector hit document numbers in 2018. If my reminiscence serves me effectively, Sri Lanka achieved over 250,000 arrivals in December 2018 alone. That development and momentum was clearly severely impacted by the 21 April assaults. It will likely be attention-grabbing to see how effectively the trade bounces again from this. I feel this has already begun with EU Member States and others lifting their journey advisories. Persons are beginning to come again. Slowly. However they’re coming again. European vacationers, notably high-end vacationers, have began to come back again. We’re wanting into tips on how to make the Sri Lankan wellness trade extra engaging to European customers.  

One other achievement, no matter its critics might say, is Sri Lanka’s commitments earlier than the Human Rights Council. They’re vital as a result of a Sri Lankan Authorities acknowledged that there are wrongs that must be set proper. I really consider that is essential in international locations which have suffered the violence of battle in the event that they imply to construct in direction of long-term peace and safety. The Human Rights Council decision needs to be seen as a possibility. A possibility for Sri Lanka to construct a stronger and extra resilient society.

One other achievement, no matter its critics might say, is Sri Lanka’s commitments earlier than the Human Rights Council. They’re vital as a result of a Sri Lankan Authorities acknowledged that there are wrongs that must be set proper. I really consider that is essential in international locations which have suffered the violence of battle in the event that they imply to construct in direction of long-term peace and safety. The Human Rights Council decision needs to be seen as a possibility. A possibility for Sri Lanka to construct a stronger and extra resilient society. 

Q: From an EU perspective what are Sri Lanka’s challenges within the medium and long run?

A: Reconciliation. Significant and lasting reconciliation which addresses the grievances of all communities. It is a problem that many international locations have failed to beat. However I hope for a unique end result in Sri Lanka. 

The eventual lack of GSP+, due to the nation’s greater earnings standing, will damage if Sri Lanka isn’t prepared for it. So it’s essential that exporters do two issues: take most benefit of the scheme whereas getting ready for the longer term.

Q: Any recommendation you could have as to how Sri Lanka can handle these?

A: On reconciliation, I favor to speak about its prospects. 

The EU is described because the world’s largest peace mission. It is because almost 70 years in the past international locations in Europe united towards a recurrence of warfare. I feel reconciliation in Europe has essential parallels for Sri Lanka. Thoughts you, there have been challenges to European integration – we’re going through one proper now. However we’re nonetheless right here as a result of we consider we’re stronger collectively. 

There are profitable examples of reconciliation processes on the degree of nations – South Africa being an apparent instance. The current peace settlement in Mozambique, an essential accomplice for the EU, gives the promise of reconciliation and democratic consolidation.  

If the purpose is to remodel Sri Lanka right into a monetary, technological, and transhipment hub, then you must be open for enterprise. Protectionism and commerce are simply not appropriate. 

As for commerce one phrase – diversification. Sri Lanka should diversify its exports. We aren’t simply saying this however we’re serving to SMEs to understand this goal by the Commerce-related Help mission, specializing in coverage improvement and regulatory reforms. One other EUR 10 million mission will goal meals security and high quality compliance. These are key to coming into and staying aggressive within the European market. Sri Lanka additionally must look nearer on the enterprise setting for funding, assist start-ups, encourage innovation, produce greater high quality items, and make the shift in direction of sustainable manufacturing ideas.

The world has modified and Sri Lanka has modified proper together with it. If the purpose is to remodel Sri Lanka right into a monetary, technological, and transshipment hub, then you must be open for enterprise. Protectionism and commerce are simply not appropriate. 

Q: What can Sri Lanka count on from the EU going ahead?

A: Sri Lanka can count on what the European Union has all the time supplied: a powerful and dependable partnership. It’s a partnership which is able to hopefully develop in energy regardless of the end result of the presidential and parliamentary elections. 

Extra concretely, we’re serving to Sri Lanka to handle the shared challenges of local weather change. As Greta Thunberg identified to the European Parliament, “our home is falling aside, and we’re quickly operating out of time”. The EU is severe about addressing local weather change and we’re decided to steer the combat towards this menace. In Sri Lanka, we’re funding a mission that may take a look at establishing the greenhouse fuel emission baseline of the trade sector and assist Sri Lanka to cut back them. It’s going to set up a monitoring, reporting and verification system and pilot check a number of applied sciences. 

We’re additionally working with stakeholders to strengthen the responsiveness of the justice system and to enhance entry to justice, notably for women. We hope to quickly begin a mission to strengthen public monetary administration and accountability. We’re additionally offering new funding alternatives by the SWITCH-Asia regional program, focusing on sustainable consumption and manufacturing. 

Relying on how the brand new European Fee shapes EU spending, the EU-Asia Connectivity Technique might mobilise assist for infrastructure improvement. Extra funds might turn out to be obtainable by the European Funding Financial institution (EIB). EIB has already supplied EUR 50 million to enhance and increase sewage networks in Colombo.

Sri Lanka can count on an incredible deal from its partnership with the European Union. 

Q: Your perspective of EU with out Britain for Sri Lanka?

A: A Brexit deal means Brussels and London would begin figuring out a brand new relationship which incorporates issues referring to commerce. This could even be excellent news for Sri Lanka as a result of there could be a transition part of two years that will additionally embody an extension interval for all the present commerce preparations resembling GSP+. 

Q: What was your most unforgettable expertise in Sri Lanka?

A: The three years as a complete have been unforgettable. But when I needed to decide one factor it will most likely be the relationships that my spouse, who’s an artist, and I’ve established. We now have discovered so many good associates amongst Sri Lankan folks from completely different ethnic and non secular backgrounds. As EU Ambassador, after I converse of Sri Lanka’s range, I converse from first-hand expertise, as a result of I’ve seen it everywhere in the nation. These friendships give us an excessive amount of pleasure and satisfaction. It’s these relationships which have made us really feel at dwelling in Sri Lanka. 

 

 

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