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Sri Lanka given 6 months to reverse EU GSP+ suspension

[TamilNet, Saturday, 6 February 2010 09:17 No Comment]

Ambassadors of the nations of European Union, based on EU Commissions negative assessment of Sri Lanka’s human rights record, have decided to suspend the preferential trade status known as GSP+ (Generalised System of Preferences Plus) to Sri Lanka. However, when the European finance ministers announce this decision at a meeting in Brussels on February 16, the announcement will trigger suspension only after 6 months from that date, providing "Colombo a fair opportunity to get the decision reversed," European media reported.

"We will look to work with Sri Lanka to identify concerted steps and actions which could help us to plot the course together that would enable Sri Lanka to regain GS+" a EU diplomat is reported to have said.

Sri Lanka gains about 150 million dollars annually due to preferential tariffs, according to trade estimates. The island’s clothing industry is the main beneficiary, using the tax breaks to sell to high street retailers in Europe.

Sri Lanka’s hawkish government has faced almost constant criticism over the past several years because of the way it has conducted a war against Tamil Tiger rebels. Government forces have been accused of a host of rights violations including the indiscriminate killing of thousands of Tamil civilians, the murder of aid workers and the execution surrendering rebels.

"The European Union states have been reluctant to pressure Colombo to work towards a just and fair political solution to the Tamils in the North and East," said a British Tamil activist. "We hope that this time the EU moves beyond rhetoric and take concrete action," he added.

Dublin People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka in a recent ruling highlighted the conduct of the European Union in undermining the CFA [Cease Fire Agreement] of 2002.

"In spite of being aware of the detrimental consequences to a peace process in the making, the EU decided – under pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom – to list the TRM (Tamil Resistance Movement, which included the LTTE) as a terrorist organization in 2006. This decision allowed the Sri Lankan Government to breach the ceasefire agreement and re-start military operations leading to the massive violations [of human rights]….It also points to the full responsibility of those governments, led by the United States, that are conducting the so-called “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) in providing political endorsement of the conduct of the Sri Lankan Government and armed forces in a war that is primarily targeted against the Tamil people," the war crimes tribunal said in its ruling.

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