In 2013, a high-level political dialogue was launched and the EU and Myanmar also started to engage in a regular Human Rights Dialogue, which is co-chaired by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights and was last held on 22 November 2016. This engagement underscores the particular attention the EU places on democratic transition and human rights in the country, not least the protection of the rights of persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya.
The EU quickly responded to the immediate needs of the country’s transition and provided swift and targeted support inter alia for the peace process, institution building and electoral reform and helped initiate steps to reform the country's police force.
The EU has been reaching out to the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw), which remains a key political player, on the role of the military in a modern democracy. The Chairman of the EU Military Committee and the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces paid reciprocal visits in Brussels and Nay Pyi Taw in June and November 2016 respectively.
The EU and Myanmar also co-operate in multilateral fora. For many years, the EU has tabled resolutions on the human rights situation in Myanmar in the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council. In recognition of the country's progress on democratic transition, the reinvigoration of the peace process and the positive steps taken by the new government to improve human rights, in September 2016 the EU took the decision not to table a human rights resolution in the UN General Assembly Third Committee. In view of the remaining human rights concerns, in particular the violence in Rakhine State following the 9 October 2016 attacks on three border guard posts, the EU led a Resolution in the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017.
The Resolution established an independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged human rights violations by military and security forces and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State. The Fact-Finding Mission is yet to obtain access to Myanmar and the European Union is consistently advocating for this to happen in its contacts with the Myanmar authorities.
The European Union has condemned the attacks of 25 August by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, as well as the violence that followed in Northern Rakhine State. The security operations conducted by Myanmar's security forces have led to a serious refugee crisis. Tens of thousands of people have been internally displaced with no or limited access to humanitarian assistance and more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. In the light of these developments, the European Union has called for an immediate stop of violence against unarmed civilians and a de-escalation of tensions, respect for human rights and a particular duty of the security forces to refrain from any violence against unarmed civilians. The European Union has also been, publicly and in direct contact with the Myanmar government, insisting on the restoration of access for all humanitarian actors and the media to Northern Rakhine State. (See, for reference, Speech by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the European Parliament urgency debate on Myanmar, 14 September 2017; Statements by the High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini on 6 September and 11 September 2017).) The European Commission announced on 12 September an additional €3 million in humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh and Myanmar as a result of the crisis (for more information, see "Humanitarian Aid" section). In addition to addressing the immediate situation, steps need to be taken by the Myanmar government to address without delay the root causes of the situation in Rakhine State, including the elimination of statelessness and discrimination and under-development. The European Union strongly advocates for the start of the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State in accordance with its final report presented on 24 August 2017. The EU stands ready to cooperate with the government in implementing the recommendations.
Myanmar’s first ASEAN chairmanship in 2014 provided the opportunity for the EU to step up engagement with the country at the regional level and work towards implementing the "Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action to strengthen the ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership (2013-2017)" and promoting EU strategic interests in the Asia Pacific as set out later on in the EU Joint Communication ‘The EU and ASEAN: a partnership with a strategic purpose’ and the ensuing Council Conclusions. The EU will continue to do so as regards the implementation of the recently adopted EU-ASEAN- Plan, which will cover the period 2018-2022. The EU and Myanmar also cooperate in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) as well as the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). On 20-21 November 2017 Myanmar will host the 13th ASEM Foreign Ministerial Meeting.