Since early 2011, Myanmar has embarked on a historic path of political and economic reforms, departing from five decades of authoritarian rule. The government has committed itself to introducing democracy, and some significant steps have been taken towards establishing a more open and equitable society. The reform process focuses on the transition to democracy, economic and social reforms, and efforts to make peace with ethnic armed groups within the country. Re-engagement with the international community, in particular Western countries, has been another priority for the government. The Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014 marked an important stepping stone in this direction.
The EU has taken the lead in providing support for Myanmar's democratic transition and reform process. The restrictive measures imposed by the EU on the government of Myanmar were suspended in April 2012 and lifted in 2013, with the exception of an arms embargo. In July 2013, the EU reinstated Myanmar into the Everything but Arms initiative of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), which provides for duty-free and quota-free access for the country's products to the European market.
The opening of a full-fledged EU delegation to Myanmar in Yangon in September 2013 opened a new chapter in our bilateral relations.
An EU-Myanmar Task Force was held in November 2013 in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw demonstrating all tools and instruments the EU has at its disposal to support democratisation.
The EU and Myanmar are also cooperating in the field of human rights. EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis co-chaired two rounds of EU-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue in Nay Pyi Taw in May 2014 and June 2015. On the eve of each dialogue session a civil society forum was held in Yangon. In 2015, EUSR Lambrinidis also visited Rakhine State.
In recognition of its staunch support for Myanmar's nationally-owned peace process, the EU was invited to sign a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement as an international witness on 15 October 2015. The Agreement will pave the way for the start of a broad-based and inclusive national political dialogue as the next phase towards lasting peace and national reconciliation. Factsheet – Myanmar: EU support for the peace process .
On the invitation of the Union Election Commission, the EU deployed the first Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to observe the general elections on 8 November 2015. High Representative Federica Mogherini appointed Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a Vice President of the European Parliament as Chief Observer. The 150 member strong observation team from all 28 EU Member States as well as Norway, Switzerland and Canada is present all over Myanmar and is closely following the various stages of the electoral process.
The EU and Myanmar are currently negotiating an Investment Protection Agreement. In May 2015, the EU joined a Labour Rights' Initiative, launched by the Government of Myanmar, the United States, Japan, Denmark and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in November 2014. The initiative aims to promote the fundamental rights of Myanmar workers, create opportunities for Myanmar businesses and help transform the country into an attractive trading and investment partner.
Myanmar is benefitting from the second largest bilateral development cooperation envelop in Asia. The Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020 (€688 million) is focusing on four focal sectors:
3.good governance and rule of law, and
4.peace building support.
The Annual Action Programme 2014 (€120 million) targets livelihoods and food security, rule of law, electoral processes, capacity development and peacebuilding. Further assistance is provided from regional and thematic programmes and instruments.
The EU continues to be a key provider of humanitarian assistance for vulnerable populations affected by natural disasters, conflict and communal violence. It also supports disaster preparedness projects in coastal flood-prone areas and for urban earthquake risks.
In March 2015, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Myanmar signed a Framework Agreement under which the Bank can start supporting development projects in the country.
Currently, bilateral relations are framed by the Council conclusions of 22 July 2013 on the Comprehensive Framework for the European Union's policy and support to Myanmar/Burma and Council conclusions of 22 June 2015 on forthcoming elections in Myanmar/Burma.