EU official lauds country’s reforms, eyes poverty reduction

EU official lauds country’s reforms, eyes poverty reduction

European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was ‘extremely satisfied’ at the end of her recent visit to Burma and hopes the EU will be able to contribute to poverty alleviation in the country.

A press statement released by Ashton on Sunday said she had meetings with Burma’s political leadership, including President Thein Sein, where they discussed the country’s future.

“The president has the ambition to reduce poverty in the line with the Millennium Development Goals in the next two years. We want to be a part of these efforts,” said the foreign policy chief in the press release.

“[The president] talked about education and health, the need to develop small businesses which will be the backbone of the economy, and the opportunity to get investment from European companies.”

The EU has allocated 150 million euros for Burma for the period 2012-2013.

Ashton also met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and speakers of the parliaments.

“The speaker of the parliament also told me that he wanted to work with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in all areas, including constitutional change, so I am happy that the question of the oath has been resolved,” said Ashton.

The EU delegation also discussed economic developments, human rights and the status of the country’s remaining political prisoners with Burmese officials during the trip.

“I made the argument that it is not just about the release, but also to enable them to become full citizens of this country in the future,” said Ashton.

Soe Aung, joint-secretary for foreign affairs of exile-based Forum for Democracy, said greater legal infrastructure is needed within the country if Burma hopes to manage incoming foreign investment and protect its citizens.

“There is no law or standardisation to protect local populations and the environment,” said Soe Aung.  “Supposed there is a multitude of foreign investments in the country after removing the sanctions, and the country [hasn’t] adopted economic regulations that meet international standards, there will be more of a negative impact on the local population than the positive ones.”

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