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EU urges  Sri Lanka to lift import restrictions as soon as possible   

The European Union (EU) strongly urged Sri Lanka to lift forthwith import restrictions preventing many European products from entering its market.

During the Joint Commission meeting by the European Union ,Sri Lanka clarified that it has imposed temporary import restrictions on non-essential items, strictly as an interim measure, due to a foreign exchange shortfall resulting from the impact of the global pandemic.

The Joint Commission took stock of the conclusions of the Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation held virtually on 26 January 2022.

Sri Lanka noted that these measures are subject to continuous and progressive review while appreciating the valued contribution of the GSP+ regime to the country’s sustainable development. 

The EU acknowledged the constructive engagement by Sri Lankan stake-holders during the GSP+ monitoring mission in September 2021. 

The two sides reviewed Sri Lanka’s compliance with 27 International Conventions related to human rights, labour rights, protection of the environment and good governance covered by the GSP+ scheme. 

Sri Lanka reiterated its commitment to effective implementation of the 27 conventions, and noted its adherence to the principle of non-discrimination, and the removal of any further impediments in the exercise of labour rights and fundamental freedoms. The EU invited Sri Lanka to provide further updates on progress.

Meanwhile, the EU urged Sri Lanka to continue reducing the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), and to undertake further practical and administrative steps to release on bail those detained under the PTA without charges.

The EU and 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 entailed an exchange of views and updates on a wide range of topics of bilateral interest – ranging from governance, reconciliation and human rights, to trade, development cooperation, climate change and environment, sectoral cooperation, security and counter-terrorism, and cooperation in multilateral fora.

With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU congratulated Sri Lanka on the country’s effective vaccine strategy. 

Highlighting the need to address vulnerabilities and inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, the EU emphasised 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 for updates on developments, relevant action and legislative initiatives in the EU and Sri Lanka. The discussion focused on democracy, governance, rule of law, human rights, including the rights of minorities, women, children and labour rights, and freedom of expression and association.

Sri Lanka apprised on progress in reconciliation and in the independent institutions, notably the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), the Office for Reparations (OR), the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL). 

The EU strongly encouraged Sri Lanka to continue cooperation and engagement with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

 In this context, the EU underlined the importance of independence and effective functioning of the Independent Institutions. 

The EU and Sri Lanka concurred on the importance of empowering civil society and giving it the necessary space to function in all its diversity. The EU reiterated its continued commitment to support Sri Lanka in justice reform and reconciliation.

The EU and Sri Lanka exchanged on ways to deepen cooperation in higher education and research and technical cooperation under the Erasmus+ programme, the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie programme, 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 environment protection. Both sides exchanged views on priorities ahead of the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27).

The EU and Sri Lanka reviewed ongoing cooperation in the area of security and counter-terrorism. Sri Lanka appreciated the EU’s continued listing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organisation.

 Both sides stressed the importance of adherence to international norms and standards in the fight against terrorism. They reiterated willingness to further enhance cooperation in Maritime Domain Awareness.

The EU and Sri Lanka highlighted their commitment to continue joint efforts in the promotion of 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 1 December 2021. The initiative was welcomed by Sri Lanka.

The EU and Sri Lanka agreed to convene the next Joint Commission meeting in Colombo in 2023. They also discussed the time frame of the next Working Group meetings under the Joint Commission.

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