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Official relations between the EU and Sri Lanka go back to 1975, when the European Commission concluded a commercial cooperation agreement with the Sri Lankan Government.

In 1995, the year in which the EU opened a delegation office in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, a more comprehensive cooperation agreement on partnership and development took effect. Under this agreement, relations between the two parties are coordinated by the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission, whose most recent meeting was held in late 2013.

Today, dialogue between the EU and Sri Lanka covers a broad spectrum of issues:

  • political matters
  • human rights
  • trade
  • development cooperation
  • fisheries
  • migration
  • civil aviation
  • environmental issues.

In mid-2010, after concluding an investigation into Sri Lanka's failure to effectively implement 3 UN human rights conventions, the EU temporarily withdrew the enhanced system of trade preferences known as GSP + from the country. Sri Lanka's access to the EU market is currently subject to the generalised system of preferences (GSP). The EU remains Sri Lanka’s main export destination; trade flows between the two came to €3.8 billion in 2012, with a major trade surplus of €1.2 billion in Sri Lanka's favour.

The EU has provided substantial humanitarian and development aid, especially to the areas hit by the 2004 tsunami and the long civil war. EU assistance over the 2005-2013 period totalled some €587 million.

An EU-Sri Lanka readmission agreement designed to combat illegal migration has been in force since 2005. The first joint readmission committee under this agreement met in early 2013.

The horizontal Aviation Agreement , which provides a sound legal basis for developing aviation relations between Sri Lanka and EU countries, has been in force since mid-2013.