The European Union, on Wednesday raised concerns with the Sri Lankan government about continued discrimination against women and girls and against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Sri Lankans.
The European Union office in Colombo, in a statement said that while the EU praised the Sri Lankan government for its progress made in advancing human rights, labour and environmental standards, there were still many areas where reforms had yet to be delivered.
The statement said that a team of senior officials from Brussels had been in Sri Lanka for the last 10 days on a fact-finding mission and the mission had focused on the status of the implementation of 27 international conventions of which Sri Lanka is a signatory.
Progressive implementation of the conventions is the condition for continued preferential access to the European Union market – the world’s largest and Sri Lanka’s biggest export market – under the GSP Plus facility, the statement said.
“The excellent cooperation by the Government is a reminder of how much the situation has changed in the country over the last two and a half years, including real advances in human rights,” the EU Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Tung-Lai Margue said after a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“But there are still important concerns about the lack of concrete progress in key areas. Torture has to stop. It is of paramount importance that the Government delivers on its commitments, including replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act with counter-terrorism legislation consistent with international standards and allowing people in custody to have access to a lawyer from the point of arrest,” Margue added.
The assessment, along with that of the other countries benefiting from GSP Plus, will be published in January 2018. It will be considered by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
Sri Lanka lost access to the EU GSP Plus since 2009 over human rights related issues.
Sri Lanka’s apparel sector took a severe beating as a result of losing access to the EU GSP Plus trade concession. (News.in)