The South Asia Delegation of the European Parliament (DSAS) met with Ambassadors of the South Asian countries at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on July 12, 2023, to exchange views on relations between the EU and the South Asian countries from a regional and wider geo-strategic perspective. The meeting was chaired by Vice Chair of DSAS and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Ulrike Muller from Germany (Renew Europe Group). Ambassadors and representatives from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, and the Maldives, based in Brussels, were present at the meeting.
At the outset of the meeting, the Vice-Chair of DSAS, MEP Ulrike Muller, highlighted the importance of the EU's bilateral relations with South Asian countries, fostering cooperation and collaboration in various areas. MEP Muller emphasized that these partnerships are built on shared democratic values and a mutual desire for economic growth, stability, and regional development. Furthermore, she expressed the EU's commitment to further strengthening collaboration with South Asian countries on global issues such as counterterrorism, climate change, sustainable development, and regional security. MEP Muller underlined that through these bilateral and international partnerships, the EU and South Asian countries should work together to address common challenges, promote peace and stability, and foster socio-economic development in the region.
Recognizing the importance of trade relations between the EU and South Asian countries, MEP Muller acknowledged the role of tariff concessions provided under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and GSP Plus schemes for the economies of these countries. Ambassador Grace Asirwatham expressed appreciation for the tariff concessions offered to Sri Lanka under GSP Plus over the years. She emphasized that Sri Lanka needs the EU GSP plus tariff concessions more than ever before as the country embarks on a transformative journey towards economic recovery while continuing to fulfil all GSP plus-related compliance under 27 international conventions. The Ambassador further stated that Sri Lanka has excellent bilateral relations with the EU, and close engagement and dialogue take place throughout the year under various mechanisms.
As the meeting focused on the EU's relations with South Asian countries from a regional perspective and wider geo-strategic considerations, Ambassador Asirwatham requested that the EU collaborate with South Asian countries to find common solutions to global challenges such as terrorism, drug trafficking, security, and climate change, bilaterally and through regional cooperation arrangements in the region. While noting the EU's strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, the Ambassador expressed Sri Lanka's keenness to collaborate with regional and international partners, including the EU, to enhance maritime safety and security and maintain a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean.
All Ambassadors of South Asian countries stressed the common point that the EU's inclusive partnership with South Asia should result in inclusive prosperity. They highlighted the importance of the continued benefits of EU GSP tariff concessions for the South Asian countries to gain market access to the EU, which would contribute to socioeconomic development in those countries. The DSAS Chair and the members agreed with the views expressed by the representatives of the South Asian countries and resolved to continue focusing on further strengthening the partnership and cooperation with the South Asian countries.
The South Asia Delegation of the European Parliament (DSAS) is a dedicated group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that works to strengthen the EU's relations with six South Asian countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal, and Pakistan. The objective of DSAS is to promote dialogue, cooperation, and regional development through bilateral and multilateral engagements.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
18 July 2023