Political, economic, social and cultural relations between Sri Lanka and European countries date back centuries and include people-to-people interaction through migration, trade, tourism, legal and administrative traditions, architecture, language and sports.
Official relations between the EU and Sri Lanka date back to 1975 when the European Commission and the Government of Sri Lanka concluded a Commercial Cooperation Agreement. The EU opened a Delegation Office in Colombo in 1995, which is also accredited to the Maldives.
Today relations between the EU and Sri Lanka are governed by a comprehensive Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development which came into force in April 1995. An EU-Sri Lanka Re-admission Agreement has also been in force since May 2005 in order to combat illegal immigration more effectively.
The Cooperation Agreement aims to enhance and develop the various aspects of cooperation between the EU and Sri Lanka through dialogue and partnership. Cooperation is based on the respect for democratic principles and human rights. In 2015, the EU and Sri Lanka celebrated 20 years of cooperation.
The current agreement covers a number of key areas of cooperation, such as;
- diversification of trade and investment
- networking between EU and Sri Lankan business communities
- strengthening technical, economic and cultural links, providing technical assistance to Sri Lanka to interact more effectively with the EU
- supporting Sri Lanka's efforts to improve the living conditions of the poorer sections of the population
- environmental protection and sustainable management of natural resources.
Dialogue between the EU and Sri Lanka takes place under the Joint Commission (composed of representatives of both EU and Sri Lanka). The Joint Commission aims to ensure the proper functioning and implementation of the Cooperation Agreement, to make suitable recommendations to promote the objectives of the Agreement and examine ways to enhance the cooperation in the areas covered by the Agreement. There are Working Groups on Trade and Development. The first meeting of the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights under the EU-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was held in Colombo in January 2016.