The European Union remains Sri Lanka’s number one trading partner and an important source of foreign direct investment and tourist arrivals. The EU’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, Bernard Savage addressing the Europe Day celebration in Colombo last week, said that they hoped to accompany Sri Lanka as it moved forward to a peaceful and prosperous future.
“The European Union remains Sri Lanka’s number one trading partner and an important source of foreign direct investment and tourist arrivals” he said adding that the engagement went beyond the purely economic.
During the last few months the EU had approved humanitarian assistance worth 4.5 million Euros and 60 million Euros for development projects in the Northern Province to be implemented by UN agencies. This was in addition to cooperation in fisheries, higher education and civil aviation among other areas, the ambassador noted.
Savage said that the EU as a long standing partner would make a unique contribution to the challenge of building a future for Sri Lanka, based on reconciliation and reconstruction.
Based on the principles of the European project they intended building a future together in cooperation, whilst leaving behind past rivalries and conflicts, he observed.
The ambassador noted that despite what had been said about the EU’s financial and economic problems, the basis of its economy remained strong and the common values that had brought them together in the first place, were more relevant than ever.
Warning that the coming year would be crucial, he observed that Europe’s recovery and future would hinge on the decisions it implemented both internally and globally.
Senior Minister A. H. M. Fowzie, who was the Chief Guest recalled with gratitude the numerous ways in which the EU had assisted Sri Lanka.
Economic cooperation programmes had started in the late 1980’s. In the early stages, it consisted mainly of technical assistance, but later evolved towards assisting Sri Lanka to modernise its regulatory framework for trade and investment, he said.
Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU since 1995 had grown considerably, the Minister said while noting that there had been a 25 percent increase last year, in comparison to 2010.
Proposing a toast to the EU, he expressed the warm wishes of the government and people of Sri Lanka.
On May 9, the European Union celebrated the 62nd Anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. It was on this day in 1950, that the then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman put forward his ideas for a united Europe, in order to bring lasting peace and prosperity to the continent and its people.
by Zacki Jabbar