European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will visit Sri Lanka on 7 and 8 March. The visit coincides with the Commission's preparation of a post-Tsunami reconstruction package for the region, worth €350 million. The Commissioner will travel to areas affected by the Tsunami and unveil reconstruction plans for Sri Lanka. She will also discuss the peace process with senior Government figures including President Chandrike Kamaratunga, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama, Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, as well as with representatives of civil society and other parties to the peace process. The Commissioner will underline the EU's strong commitment to Sri Lanka, both as a Co-Chair in the peace process and as a substantial trading partner and aid donor. She will confirm that she is proposing to upgrade the Commission's representation in Colombo to a full EC Delegation.
On the eve of her visit, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: "The European Commission was swift to react to the disaster on 26 th December, with humanitarian assistance. Now we are proposing a reconstruction package for Sri Lanka worth €100 million. The first instalment of that package should be bringing benefits by the middle of the year. I am determined that our support will be swift, efficient, and reflect our long-term partnership. Europe will not forget how Sri Lanka has suffered".
In addition to the €31 million in humanitarian aid already made available to Sri Lanka, the European Commission is now working with the country to programme a further allocation of €100 million.
The Commission proposes a first instalment before this summer (funded through the Rapid Reaction Mechanism) that will include support to help local people get back to work, provision of detailed satellite imagery of the affected coastline before and after the tsunami to aid planning, reconstruction and risk analysis, and a possible first donation to the World Bank Reconstruction Trust Fund.
The larger, second instalment of EC support will come on stream later in the year. The Commission will discuss with Government possible plans to spend €40 million as a contribution to re-building the partly coastal South-to-East road (Matara-Batticaloa), and the remaining €56 million to help restart livelihoods. A large part of these funds will be channelled through the Reconstruction Trust Fund when it is established.
The Commissioner will also discuss the state of play in the Sri Lankan peace process and its possible impact on reconstruction. She will call on all sides to co-operate in order to deliver quick and balanced reconstruction to all Sri Lankan people, including in areas under LTTE control.
She will stress with all her interlocutors the need for a responsible and co-operative attitude in the present circumstances. She will call for all sides to do their utmost to reach an agreement on an Administrative Mechanism for reconstruction of Northern and Eastern areas.
On 8 March the Commissioner will travel outside Colombo to look at first reconstruction efforts and express Europe's solidarity with the Sri Lankan people.
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The EU's relations with Sri Lanka: