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EU and Asean hold long overdue mee
- Subject: EU and Asean hold long overdue mee
- From: moe@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 03:23:00
Subject: EU and Asean hold long overdue meeting (The Straits Times)
MAY 24 1999 The Straits Times
EU and Asean hold long overdue meeting
Myanmar junta delegates will take a back seat at
the meeting and not be allowed to talk though
avenues for communication will be available
BANGKOK -- Officials from Asean and the European
Union (EU) will meet here today for the first time since
the South-east Asian bloc's contentious admission of
military-run Myanmar two years ago.
The Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting has
been delayed for almost a year amid wrangling over the
status of Myanmar, with the EU refusing to meet the
generals from Yangon on equal terms.
But EU officials in March agreed they could not let the
human-rights situation in Myanmar hold relations
"hostage" any longer and are hoping this week's meeting
will launch a "new dynamic" in inter-bloc ties.
Myanmar's junta is accused of gross human-rights abuses
and of ignoring the result of the landslide victory in
1990 election by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's
Representatives from the junta would take a back seat at
the JCC talks bringing together the EU and Asean, said
Mr Michel Caillouet, head of the European Commission's
delegation in Thailand.
He added that Myanmar was not a signatory to the
original 1980 EU-Asean "cooperation agreement" and
Asean had therefore agreed to go ahead with the JCC
meeting despite the EU's insistence on Myanmar's limited
"They will not be able to speak... but there are
in the hotel," the EU delegation head said, referring
possibility that Myanmar delegates might want to raise
issues on the meeting's sidelines.
He noted there was little sign of progress on political
dialogue between the two blocs since the cancellation of
an EU-Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Berlin earlier
"On the political level we are still at a standstill,"
reporters at a press briefing here on Friday.
"We, the EU, are very firm on the principles of
democracy and human rights."
Meanwhile, a senior Asian diplomat in Yangon said
Myanmar's economy was at a standstill and the
investment boom expected after its entry into Asean had
failed to materialise.
"The timing was all wrong. When they got into Asean, the
regional crisis hit," he said.
"A lot of the investment made in hotels and property on
the expectation that the economy would boom ... went
The EU last month extended sanctions against Myanmar
in protest against ongoing human-rights abuses as well as
the 1990 election results.
The sanctions, which include a halt to non-humanitarian
aid and a visa ban against senior Yangon officials, were
first applied in 1996 and effectively block Asean from
attending talks in Europe.
Mr Caillouet said the JCC meeting would cover issues
including trade, the environment and drug control.
He said the EU and Asean "have a lot to do together ...
and we are happy to be able to continue at the technical