Members object to EU granting trade concessions to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has met with a major obstacle in obtaining much needed trade concessions from the European Union (EU) following objections raised in the European parliament.

A group of left wing and green European members of parliament (MEP) have tabled a resolution urging the EU to stop granting Generalised Scheme of Tariff Preferences (GSP+) status to Sri Lanka as the country had failed to honour its human rights commitments.

The GSP+ offered to Sri Lanka was stopped during the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration as it failed to implement core international conventions on human and labour rights, sustainable development and good governance.

'Breaches of human rights'

In January, the European Commission recommended to reinstate trade concessions to Sri Lanka claiming that the government has made progress in safeguarding rights.

However, the Confederal Group of the European United Left/ Nordic Green Left (GUE/ NGL), made of 52 Members from 19 different political delegations and 14 Member States have objected to granting GSP+ while highlighting “existing breaches of Human Rights in Sri Lanka”.

“Whereas, the Government’s reform efforts, including those that directly relate to the GSP Plus criteria, have not yet delivered in their purpose to comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,” says the resolution tabled on 20 April.

Rewarding “war heroes”

The delay in repealing terror laws and rewarding military officials accused of committing war crimes have also been highlighted in the resolution.

“Whereas the Sri Lanka Government is suspected of not adequately tackling the culture of impunity by rewarding military officials accused of human rights violations with Government positions,” it says.

The resolution comes a week after two of the group’s MEPs Lola Sánchez Caldentey and Anne-Marie Mineur had visited Sri Lanka to assess the country's progress on human rights.

Sri Lanka’s respect for labour rights came under heavy criticism when the delegation of MEPs were in country.

"The European Union should not grant a special trade status to Sri Lanka if the money coming from the advantages of this status would remain only in the pockets of a few businessmen. We are willing to give preferences to Sri Lanka, but only if we are sure that the benefit will go to the workers,” said Lola Sánchez Caldentey.

“If the European Union consumers knew the extremely abusive working conditions of the women who produce the cloth they buy from Sri Lanka, they would be ashamed."

EU warning

The resolution expected to be taken up next week has also highlighted that a committee of experts from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has identified several shortcomings in safeguarding labour rights.

In March, EU had warned Sri Lanka that the country should demonstrate prompt and concrete progress in fulfilling international commitments on human rights and labour rights and environmental protection to obtain GSP+.

GSP+ trade concessions would not be granted to Sri Lanka if the GUE/ NGL resolution is backed by at least 373 MEPs of the European parliament in May.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.