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Plenary Session of the European Parliament - Statement by State Secretary Janez Lenarčič on behalf of the EU Council: Tragic situation in Burma/Myanmar

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

We are all still shocked by the human suffering caused by the catastrophic cyclone Nagris that has struck an already poor and oppressed population of Burma/Myanmar. We expressed the deep sympathy of the EU via statements very soon after the disaster.

The EU also immediately pledged substantial amounts of emergency aid to address the humanitarian needs resulting from the cyclone. The Union has so far provided in excess of 60 million euros worth of aid. I would like to stress that all of this is in addition to our already substantial assistance to Burma. Access to the affected areas and speedy delivery of aid continue to be crucial.

The Presidency, in close cooperation with Commissioner Louis Michel, called an extraordinary Council meeting last Tuesday. Ministers responsible for development agreed that, without cooperation from the authorities in Burma/Myanmar, an even greater tragedy is possible. The situation is still critical. The Council of the EU therefore called on the Burmese authorities to take urgent action to facilitate the flow of aid to those in desperate need.

The Council welcomes Commissioner Louis Michel's efforts to convince the Burmese authorities that humanitarian assistance is both urgent and neutral. At the same time we regret that the authorities are unwilling to accept and utilise all assistance offered by the European Union and the international community.

The Council also expressed its full support to the UN Secretary General and to any initiative of the UN bodies which would help to meet the humanitarian needs of the Burmese people. We welcome the visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to Burma/Myanmar, which is expected tomorrow.

The Council has used all political dialogue meetings with Asian partners in the past days to raise the issue of Burma. In these talks, the Union underlined the neutral and impartial nature of international humanitarian assistance. We urged Asian countries to use their channels of communication to pass on the same message.

On 19 May, a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers took place in Singapore. Prior to this meeting, the Presidency submitted a demarche to ASEAN members, calling upon countries in the region to use all their influence with the Burmese authorities and urge them to open up their borders to relief goods and aid workers.

The humanitarian situation in Burma/Myanmar, and the obstructions preventing humanitarian experts and aid from reaching critical areas, will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council on Monday, 26 May 2008.


Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

Burma/Myanmar also remains high on our agenda in view of recent political developments. The fact that the junta proceeded with a national referendum in the face of this large-scale humanitarian disaster is alarming. We believe that this could lead to irregularities in the procedure of adopting a new constitution. We are also concerned by reports of heightened levels of intimidation in the run-up to the referendum.

We are very disappointed that the authorities have even disregarded UN efforts to make the transition to democracy more inclusive and credible. The EU will continue to support the efforts of the United Nations.

Finally, I would like to point out that, on 29 April, the EU renewed our Common Position adopted in November 2007. This renewed Position includes stronger restrictive measures against Burma in response to the violent crackdown on peaceful protests.

Thank you very much.


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Date: 21.05.2008