The observations were made during the concluding interaction between the Delegation and the Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (24.02.11).
During the meeting, Prof. Peiris welcomed the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and recalled that this was the 5th interaction between the Delegation and Sri Lanka. The Minister said that much progress has been achieved in the country since the last visit by the MEPs in 2008. Today, SL is characterized by a sense of optimism and confidence arising from durable peace, long term political stability and economic progress. The Government is pleased to have afforded the MEPs an opportunity to hold wide-ranging discussions with all stakeholders in Sri Lankan society, as well as to undertake visits to Jaffna and Vavuniya. This was an opportunity for the Delegation to witness first-hand progress made in resettlement, restoration of normal security conditions and provision of livelihood opportunities to those in conflict-affected areas.
The Minister highlighted to the Delegation that the Government has also given priority to post-conflict reconciliation among civilians, and the Inter-Agency Administrative Committee comprising of key officials has already commenced implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Furthermore, the Government has commenced a dialogue with the Tamil political parties with a view to evolving consensus on the broader political and constitutional issues.
Sri Lanka has also recognized that the Sri Lankan Diaspora overseas, many of whom are resident in EU countries, constitute an important dimension of the future progress of the country, and the Government has already commenced a dialogue with some sections of the Diaspora. The Minister also brought to the attention of the MEPs that as highlighted in the EU Terrorism Situation Report 2010 by EUROPOL, the LTTE remnants overseas still constitute significant threat to European and international security. He cautioned the MEPs to remain vigilant regarding European networks of the remnants of the LTTE and anti-Sri Lanka propaganda.
With regard to relations with the EU, the Minister stressed the multi-dimensional nature of Sri Lanka’s relations with the EU and encouraged greater co-operation on the trade and business front against the background of significant progress in the Sri Lankan economy, which is now growing at approximately 8%. The Minister also highlighted that many leading Sri Lankans in politics, business, education and other fields had been trained in EU countries.
The EU side thanked Minister Peiris and the Government for the extensive efforts made to ensure the success of their visit and appreciated the opportunity to interact with a cross-section of Sri Lankan society. While appreciating their interaction with the Parliament of Sri Lanka, they also welcomed the formation of the EU Parliamentary Friendship Association within the Parliament of Sri Lanka and invited the Members of the Association to visit the EU Parliament. The Delegation also welcomed the process of political empowerment taking place in Sri Lanka and the beginning of dialogue with the Diaspora. Several Members of the Delegation highlighted the need to strengthen trade and business links between Sri Lanka and the EU and the need to attract foreign direct investments. They agreed that this aspect was an important dimension of the future direction of the EU-SL relations. With regard to the situation in Jaffna, Members of the Delegation expressed their favourable impressions regarding post-conflict developments, although foreign direct investment could be enhanced. While recognizing the positive developments over the last few months, they stated that further progress was needed in meeting the grievances of the conflict-affected people, including in land related issues and matters concerning the last stages of the conflict. The Delegation stated that they were privileged to see the work of a number of international NGOs, who are working closely with the Government in the North, including with EU assistance.
A cross-party Parliamentary Delegation of the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) headed by Mrs. Jean Lambert (Greens/UK) comprising of six MEPs, is currently visiting Sri Lanka in the context of a wider regional Mission, including to the Maldives, at the invitation of the Parliament of Sri Lanka. The Mission concludes it visit today (25.02.11).
Ministry of External Affairs
25th February 2011