By Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka is coming under European Union scrutiny again in respect of progress made since regaining the GSP (General System of Preferences) plus scheme in May last year. The move provided duty free access for more than 80% of Sri Lankan exports to the European Union, the world’s largest economy, and Sri Lanka’s largest export market
The EU suspended the scheme in 2010 accusing the previous war-winning Rajapaksa government of violating International Conventions.
A delegation comprising members of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA) is scheduled to arrive in Colombo this week to evaluate progress made by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration in respect of Sri Lanka’s pledges. The delegation will be accompanied by EU’s ‘Standing Rapporteur ‘ for South Asia. The delegation is scheduled to meet officials over a period of three days beginning April 4 (tomorrow).
Authoritative sources told The Island that the EU had indicated to Sri Lanka in no uncertain terms that the government hadn’t fulfilled its promises though progress was made.
The delegation consists of Jan Zahradil, European Conservatives and Reformists(ECR), Sajjad Karim, Standing Rapporteur, European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), Paul Rubig, European People’s Party (EPP), David Martin, Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Tiziana Beghin – Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) and Franz Obermayr – Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF)
Sources said that having restored the trade preferences scheme in recognition of the progress made since the change of government in 2015 in implementing the 27 international conventions listed in the GSP Regulation relating to human rights, labour, good governance and the environment, the EU wanted Sri Lanka to meet its obligations.
The new GSP Regulation provides for continuous monitoring of the GSP+ beneficiaries’ obligations
The EU also wants Sri Lanka to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and replace it with legislation that is in line with international standards and also to resolve as soon as possible the situation of the remaining detainees held under the PTA.
The EU scrutiny would take place close on the heels of Sri Lanka being subjected to UN examination at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), sources pointed out.
Sources said that the EU delegation was also expected to take up recent violence in Ampara and Kandy districts blamed on extremist elements.
Recently, Special Assignments Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama faulted Foreign Ministry for not taking tangible measures to clear Sri Lanka of unsubstantiated allegations directed at the country thereby paving the way for constant international criticism. Amunugama was addressing an SLFP briefing after returning from Geneva where he represented the country along with FM Tilak Marapana and Faiszer Musthapha, PC, at the 37 Sessions of the Human Rights Council.