EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission: joint press release
The European Union (EU) and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka held their 24th meeting of the Joint Commission on 8 February 2022 in Brussels. The meeting, which was held in a friendly and open atmosphere, reviewed bilateral relations and resulted in an exchange of views and updates on a wide range of topics of bilateral interest – ranging from governance, reconciliation and human rights, trade, development cooperation, climate change and environment, sectoral cooperation, security and the fight against terrorism, and cooperation in multilateral forums.
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU commended Sri Lanka for the effectiveness of its vaccine strategy. Highlighting the need to address vulnerabilities and inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, the EU underlined its commitment to making the COVID-19 vaccine accessible to low- and middle-income countries in a fair and equitable manner. Sri Lanka appreciated the EU’s continued contribution to global vaccine equity.
The meeting provided an opportunity to take stock of developments, relevant actions and legislative initiatives in the EU and in Sri Lanka. The discussion focused on democracy, governance, rule of law, human rights, including minority rights, women’s, children’s and labor rights, and freedom of expression and ‘association.
Sri Lanka informed of progress made in reconciliation and in independent institutions, including the Office for Missing Persons (OMP), the Office of Reparations (OR), the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) and the Commission Human Rights Council of Sri Lanka (HRCSL). The EU strongly encouraged Sri Lanka to continue its cooperation and engagement with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. In this context, the EU underlined the importance of the independence and effective functioning of independent institutions. The EU and Sri Lanka agreed on the importance of empowering civil society and giving it the space to function in all its diversity. The EU reiterated its continued commitment to supporting Sri Lanka in justice reform and reconciliation.
Sri Lanka reiterated its objective to achieve measurable, tangible and verifiable results on the ground in fulfilling its commitments. In this context, the EU welcomed the presentation by the Sri Lankan government of amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). However, the EU noted that important elements had not been included in the draft amendment law published in the Official Gazette. Sri Lanka noted the views expressed by the EU on the need to take further steps to bring the PTA fully in line with international standards. In the meantime, while taking note of the administrative measures taken in the form of directives issued by the Inspector General of Police, the EU urged Sri Lanka to continue to reduce the use of the PTA and to take further measures practices and administrative procedures for releasing on bail persons detained under the PTA without charge.
The Joint Committee took stock of the conclusions of the Trade and Economic Cooperation Working Group held virtually on 26 January 2022. The EU and Sri Lanka noted the importance of bilateral trade relations. In this regard, the EU urged Sri Lanka to immediately lift import restrictions preventing many European products from entering its market. Sri Lanka said it had imposed temporary import restrictions on non-essential items, strictly as an interim measure, due to a shortage of foreign exchange resulting from the impact of the global pandemic. Sri Lanka noted that these measures were subject to continuous and progressive review. Sri Lanka appreciated the valuable contribution of the GSP+ scheme to the country’s sustainable development. The EU recognized the constructive engagement of Sri Lankan stakeholders during the GSP+ monitoring mission in September 2021. Both parties reviewed Sri Lanka’s compliance with 27 international conventions relating to human rights, labor rights, environmental protection and good governance covered by the GSP+ Scheme. Sri Lanka reiterated its commitment to the effective implementation of the 27 conventions and noted its adherence to the principle of non-discrimination and the removal of all other obstacles to the exercise of labor rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU invited Sri Lanka to provide further updates on progress made.
The Joint Committee also discussed the conclusions of the working group on development cooperation, which met on 2 February 2022. The working group reviewed all aspects of EU-Sri Lanka development cooperation and discussed the priorities of the EU’s Multiannual Indicative Program (MIP) for 2021-2027. They also discussed the interventions adopted in 2021, including the COVID-19 response package. The EU noted that the MIP, which emphasizes green recovery and inclusive and peaceful society, supports Sri Lanka’s development priorities and is aligned with the external dimensions of the European Green Deal and the Cooperation Strategy. of the EU in the Indo-Pacific region. Appreciating EU development cooperation, Sri Lanka reaffirmed the need for it to complement its national and development priorities. The EU and Sri Lanka expressed their commitment to work together on common priorities under the MIP.
The EU and Sri Lanka agreed on the importance of continued cooperation to deter and eliminate IUU fishing practices and honor partnership commitments.
Issues related to migration and readmission were also addressed.
The EU and Sri Lanka discussed ways to deepen cooperation in higher education and research and technical cooperation under the Erasmus+ programme, the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie program and the Horizon Europe framework programme.
The EU welcomed Sri Lanka’s update on its Nationally Determined Contributions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the country’s commitment to ambitious targets . The EU looked forward to working closely with Sri Lanka, bilaterally and in multilateral fora, on climate action and environmental protection. The two sides exchanged views on priorities ahead of the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27).
The EU and Sri Lanka reviewed ongoing cooperation in the field of security and counter-terrorism. Sri Lanka appreciated that the EU continues to list the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organization. Both parties stressed the importance of respecting international norms and standards in the fight against terrorism. They reiterated their willingness to further strengthen cooperation in the field of maritime domain awareness.
The EU and Sri Lanka underlined their willingness to continue their joint efforts in promoting a rules-based international order and effective multilateralism. They also discussed regional developments and cooperation in the Indian Ocean. The EU presented Global Gateway, the new EU plan for major investments in infrastructure development around the world, which was launched on December 1, 2021. The initiative was welcomed by Sri Lanka.
The EU and Sri Lanka agreed to convene the next meeting of the Joint Committee in Colombo in 2023. They also discussed the schedule of the next meetings of the working group under the Joint Committee.
The meeting was co-chaired by Ms. Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service, and Admiral (Prof.) Jayanath Colombage, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.
The Joint Committee, which oversees the 1995 EU-Sri Lanka Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development, deals with a wide range of bilateral and multilateral issues of mutual interest. Its tasks are to ensure the proper functioning and implementation of the Agreement, to set priorities and to make recommendations.
The three working groups created under the Joint Commission reported on their respective meetings: the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights in September 2021; the Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation Issues in January 2022; and the Development Cooperation Working Group in February 2022.