EU 'to suspend most Burma sanctions'

UK PM David Cameron meets Burmese President Thein Sein in Burma on 13 April 2012 Western leaders have welcomed the reform process in Burma and promised reciprocal steps

European diplomats are reported to have reached a preliminary agreement to suspend most European Union sanctions against Burma.

The final decision will be taken on Monday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

But senior sources in Brussels have told the BBC they expect that there will be agreement to suspend a "big chunk" of the current sanctions.

Only the arms embargo would stay in place, they said.

According to the sources, the travel ban and asset freeze for many government officials would end, reports the BBC's World Affairs correspondent Richard Galpin.

Aid and development money would be allowed into the country, as would investment into key parts of the economy - particularly the mining and logging sectors, our correspondent adds.

Exports from these industries would be allowed into the EU. There is also talk of establishing a preferential trade agreement with Burma.

Reform process

A process of reform has been under way in Burma since polls in November 2010 that brought a transition from military to nominally civilian rule.

Burma sanctions

In place:

  • US: Arms embargo, bans on investment and financial services, as well as a ban on most Burmese imports
  • EU: Ban on arms exports to, and investment in, Burma. Visa restrictions and asset freezes targeting key officials, ban on exports of gems, timber and metals
  • Canada: Asset freezes and ban on all imports and exports as well as financial services
  • Australia: Ban on arm exports and travel and financial restrictions on about 130 people

Steps to ease sanctions:

  • Australia: Travel and financial restrictions on 260 people lifted, trade normalised
  • UK: Asset freeze on nearly 500 people and restrictions on key industries suspended
  • US: "Targeted" lifting of investment and financial services bans begun. Visa ban to be relaxed to help officials travel to US. Sanctions on people and institutions that oppose reform maintained. Ban on technical assistance was waived in February
  • EU: Ban on certain ministers and officials suspended in January. Sanctions may be relaxed further in April

The military-backed civilian government freed hundreds of political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her NLD party - which boycotted the 2010 polls because of election laws it said were unfair - has now rejoined the political process.

Earlier this month, Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament in a by-election which saw her party win 43 out of the 45 seats it contested.

The military-backed ruling party nonetheless retains a large majority in parliament, where 25% of all seats are also reserved for the military.

Thawing ties

By placing a time limit on the suspension, the EU is hoping to continue applying pressure for progress to be sustained, which could possibly include constitutional change.

Under current Burmese law Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president because of her British husband.

The US and Australia have already eased some sanctions on Burma following the political reforms.

Japan, unlike the Western nations, did not impose tough sanctions on Burma, though it did stop offering new development loans in 2003 after Aung San Suu Kyi was detained for the third time.

It is now considering lending more money to Burma by end of fiscal year 2012, according to news agency Kyodo.

Burmese president Thein Sein is scheduled to make a five-day visit to Japan this weekend.


More on This Story

Burma's Transition


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  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Burma is one of the poorest country in the world not because of sanctions. It was due to mismanagement of economic and corruption of generals since Ne Win era. Some anti-sanction campaigners argue that the Burmese people are poorer because of the sanctions which is not. The EU must help to change the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    There is a LONG way to go. The government soldiers are still operating a programme against the minority tribes in the north.

    The Kachin, Shan, Karin and other minority tribes were supposedly part of the original Burmese confederation organized by Aun San Suu Kyi's father. Instead they have been fighting for their survival for years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    It's now possible to visit Burma as a tourist for those who were interested.

    Like arm dealers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    It is a good decision. It proves that if you want to change the system you can change it. Aung San Suu Kyi hard work had paid off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    It'S unbelievable how lfting of or not lifting sanctions can translate to democratic reforms in Burma or Elsewhere. People affected by sanctions are the poor. Aung San Suu Kyi herself have never been affected by sanctions. EU decision on Maynmar, rest plainly on Hillary Clinton and David Cameron's visits. More: Of cvourse business is cheap here. No tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    This is not time to lower sanctions. Sanctions must be kept in place, or even increased to prevent militants for taking rule.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Democracy is far from confimed yet, but the wheels are in motion. Good to see some sanctions lifted in return.

    It's now possible to visit Burma as a tourist for those who were interested.

    Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspiration to the world and a lesson to others on how to get peaceful change. Long may it continue. Best of luck Burma. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Democracy has been chosen for the future, the military are no longer standing in the way and most sanctions are ending.
    People can look to the future with hope.
    Not perfect but movement in the right direction
    The Democratic process has been chosen and now can flourish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    #6 Its not really democracy is it? 25% of the seats in parliament reserved for the military. The Generals still ruling the country & only a small percentage of the MPs in parliament actually voted in.

    Don't get me wrong... its a lot better than this time last year but Burma hasn't suddenly become 'free' overnight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Democracy wins again! Now investments and Trade Agreements can open up a wealth of improvements for everyone, people can start to dream again and look forward to better times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Thank You EU! Please do it now and reward them by real and great developments and investments!

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I was working in Burma/Myanmar a few weeks ago and the welcome was unbelievable. Speaking to an Australian who does big business there he said they are some of the most honest people he had ever worked with and the Buddhist philosophy clearly permeates everything. If you go, however, make sure you are good at karaoke. Seeing a 60 yr old Japanese man belt out I wanna hold your hand was outstanding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The Arms embargo hardly matters... Burma is well armed by China in exchange for oil, gas & access to an enormous naval base on the Indian Ocean.

    #1 The Generals in Burma are still in power & there was no Arab equivalent of Aung San Suu Kyi. Its not really a comparable situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Open up Burma to free world travelers, become democratic and show awelcome to all.......The way has been paved by lovely Aung San Suu Kyi who needs and now needs all the encouragement to help change the old regime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    The Arab uprisings could learn something from this.It shows violence by either side is not the way but talking and diplomatic pressure all round is the way forward.Slow but sure.Lets hope Burma keeps going in the right direction,I can't see the army chiefs stopping this reform process now,they've too much to lose.


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