The ASEAN Delegation of the European Parliament (EP) visited Vientiane from 1 to 2 November 2017. Headed by the Chair Dr. Werner Langen and the Vice-Chair Mr. Marc Tarabella and composed of a total of 6 Members from the three major political groups, the EP Delegation’s visit to Laos aimed to reaffirm the European Parliament’s commitment to strengthening the EU-Laos relations and to inform itself about the recent political, social and economic development in the country.
The Delegation held meetings with a range of interlocutors from the National Assembly and Vientiane’s Peoples’ Provincial Assemblies, several Ministries, officials from the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the Lao National Steering Committee on Human Rights, as well as representatives from the private sector and civil society.
The Delegation underlined the overall positive development of the EU-Laos relationship. In particular, Members highlighted the joint cooperation between the EU and its Member States, including in the field of nutrition, education and good governance in the purpose of achieving both Laos’ graduation from the Least Developed Countries’ status and ambition to become a State ruled by the law by 2020. ‘We know that the country has suffered a lot from the War and is still facing its consequences. The country is on a good way, with high and lasting growth rates, making serious progress to fight poverty’, Mr. Langen stated.
In addition, the Delegation received first-hand information on regional issues that Laos is well aware of as the previous ASEAN Chair, such as the South China Sea issue, the border conflict with Cambodia and its relations with China and Vietnam.
Finally, the Delegation expressed concerns about some human rights deficiencies and a constrained working space for the civil society in the country. With reference to the European Parliament’s Resolution of September 2017, Members declared it is in the country’s own interest to address these issues to avoid international reputational damage. In this context, Members urged Lao authorities to shed light on the cases of disappearance (Sombath Somphone) and arrest (Somphone Phimmasone, Lod Thammavong and Soukane Chaithad).