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Statement by State Secretary Janez Lenarčič on Behalf of the eu Council Regarding the situation in Burma/Myanmar

Dear Mr President, honourable Members of the Parliament,

The European Union has followed developments in Burma/Myanmar closely. We are very active in supporting the efforts of the United Nations, which are aimed at advancing the transition to democracy, reconciliation and development of the country. In these endeavours, we also carry out consultations with Asian partners.

This month, EU Special Envoy Fassino informed the European Parliament about the situation in Burma. He updated MEPs on the EU's coordination with Burma's neighbours and other ASEAN countries.

UN Special Adviser Gambari paid a visit to the country at the beginning of March. We are disappointed by the lack of tangible results of his visit.

We are of the impression that the junta is less inclined to cooperate with the international community. We would have hoped that the authorities in Burma/Myanmar could have accommodated some of Mr Gambari's suggestions for furthering the political process. These suggestions are not overly ambitious, and have the backing of the whole international community.

The EU has continued to press similar points to those expressed by Mr Gambari. Furthermore, the Union has sent regular political messages to Burma/Myanmar, one such example being the last resolution of the European Parliament. Our key message is that only a credible and inclusive process of democratisation will meet the objectives of national reconciliation, stability and prosperity.

The EU therefore continues to monitor very carefully the positions of opposition groups regarding the upcoming referendum. We call on the authorities to allow a free and open debate on the constitution prior to the referendum; to abstain from persecuting political activists, and to repeal laws restricting the freedom of expression.

In spite of the current situation, the EU has not lost all hope that the authorities will guarantee a free and fair referendum, as well as accept international monitoring. We stand ready to support observers from ASEAN countries.

We continue to urge the authorities to release political prisoners and to refrain from making further arrests. In common with the European Parliament, the Council encourages Burma/Myanmar not to renew the house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (which is up for renewal in May).

We still count on further Chinese and ASEAN support to Mr Gambari's mission and to further positions by the UN Security Council. We have attempted to pass this message through our diplomatic channels and through our Special Envoy for Burma/Myanmar.

At the GAERC next week, the EU will roll over its Common Position on Burma. This will allow humanitarian engagement, albeit to a smaller degree, while the sanctions are to remain in force.

We regularly encourage international partners to join us in raising levels of aid urgently needed by the people of Burma/Myanmar. The EU will continue to provide aid to them.

Thank you for your attention.


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Date: 24.04.2008