2009 Apr 27
April 27, 2009

EU in Burma sanctions extension

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The EU has extended sanctions against Burma and renewed calls for the release of political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The sanctions, which have been in place since 2006, were extended for one year.

But at a meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers offered to review the sanctions issue if Burma’s government showed signs of democratic progress.

The ministers were also due to discuss the political crisis in Moldova and Croatia’s stalled EU membership talks.

The current sanctions against Burma include a travel ban on the country’s top officials, an arms embargo and a freeze of Burmese assets in Europe.

They were stepped up in 2007, after a crackdown by the Burmese government on protests by Buddhist monks, to include a ban on exports of timber, metals and precious stones.

Time to talk?

A statement released after the meeting said the council of 27 EU member states “deems it necessary to extend the current EU common position by another year, including the restrictive measures”.

The statement added that the EU “underlines its readiness to revise, amend or reinforce the measures it has already adopted in light of developments on the ground”.

The foreign ministers also called for the immediate release of more than 2,000 political prisoners, including opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

With general elections planned for next year, EU diplomats say Burma is yet to take the steps needed to make them credible and inclusive.

But the EU has signalled its readiness to respond to any genuine progress, says the BBC’s Oana Lungescu in Luxembourg, offering the prospect of ministerial talks on the margins of a regional meeting in Hanoi next month.

The foreign ministers were also due to discuss political crises in two countries neighbouring the EU – the violent unrest earlier this month in the former Soviet republic of Moldova, which has led to increased tensions with EU member Romania, and Croatia’s membership talks, stalled by a border row with Slovenia. –BBC News