The European Union (EU) drew attention to the importance of Sri Lanka making prompt and concrete progress in fulfilling international commitments on human rights
and labour rights as well as in environmental protection issues, at a meeting in Colombo yesterday.
The EU Working Group delegation met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera yesterday and were assured of Sri Lanka's political commitment to move forward on reforms in sectors covered by the Working Group.
This was the meeting of the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights under the European Union-Sri Lanka Joint Commission held in Colombo on 13-14 March 2017.
The talks also addressed Sri Lanka's application for a resumption of exports access to the EU market under the EU's Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which is currently under consideration by the European Parliament and the Council. The two institutions have until mid-May to discuss the European Commission's assessment and announce a response to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka reaffirmed her commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights domestically and globally and to collaborate on the effective implementation of international human rights instruments. The EU however acknowledged the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka in various areas, including the ratification of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the passing of the Right to Information Act, legislation on the Office for Missing Persons and symbolic steps taken to advance reconciliation. There was a detailed exchange of information on many important ongoing reforms such as Constitution-making as well as replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act and amending the Criminal Procedure Code to bring them in line with international standards. Both sides recognized the need for further progress on reconciliation. They agreed that the full implementation of the UN Human Rights Council resolution of October 2015 remains a priority. The EU reiterated its readiness to continue supporting the government in its reforms, including financial assistance. There was also discussion of the progress made and the challenges ahead in maintaining the freedoms of expression and of the media, strengthening civil society, advancing the rights of women and children, respecting non-discrimination on any grounds, addressing the rights of minorities, accelerating the return of land, restoration of labour rights, implementing the treaty obligations and the rule of law. The EU stressed the importance of addressing areas of concern, especially torture, violence against women and the need to combat corruption. The EU delegation was led by Ms. Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific Department of the European External Action Service. The Lankan delegation was led by Mr. A.L.A. Azeez, Senior Director-General for European Union Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka. The conclusions and recommendations of the Working Group will be reported to the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission to be held later this year. The Joint Commission will then assess the progress achieved since yesterday's discussions. (ceylontoday)