The first EU - Myanmar Task Force took place in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw from 13th - 15th November. The Task Force brought together leading political, development and economic figures from both sides as well as civil society groups and NGOs to discuss Myanmar’s on-going social, political and economic transition including facilitating and delivering comprehensive EU support at all levels. It was the first time that the Task Force concept had been used outside of Europe's neighbourhood.
The Task Force was co-chaired by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Minister in the President’s office of Myanmar U Soe Thane. European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani (Industry and Entrepreneurship) and Commissioners Andris Piebalgs (Development and Cooperation) and Dacian Cioloş (Agriculture and Rural Development) also participated in the Task Force. Myanmar was also represented by President U Thein Sein, U Tin Naing, Minister in the President's Office, and Dr Kan Zaw, Minister for National Planning and Economic Development. Six members of the European Parliament attended, led by Vice President Isabelle Durant. Over 100 leading European companies were also represented.
At the launch night of the Task Force activities, Catherine Ashton spoke of how the EU had come to Myanmar with a sense of celebration, anticipation and of expectation. She said that "we are here to celebrate the progress of this wonderful country and in recognition of the journey that Myanmar has decided to undertake. We also come with a sense of expectation; expectation that is matched by the people, by the government, by civil society in Myanmar too. Expectation of what can be and what will be".
The first full day of the Task Force took place in Yangoon at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The opening session was addressed by the two co-Chairs, with Catherine Ashton taking to opportunity to emphasise the EU's commitment to Myanmar's future and continued reforms and also its willingness to stand with the people of Myanmar in the belief that they deserve a better future - one that will give them all they aspire to.
The Task Force then moved into three different forums: democratic and civil society, business and development. These three forums heard from a variety of participants including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, members of the Myanmar government, NGOs, Members of the European Parliament, civil society representatives and business leaders. The findings and recommendations of these forums will be used to form the follow-up steps and future actions of the Task Force.
Members of the Task Force then travelled north to the capital of Myanmar, Nay Pyi Taw where they were welcomed by President U Thein Sein.
On Friday, the Task Force was formally launched by President U Thein Sein and Catherine Ashton. In her remarks, Catherine Ashton highlighted how the Task Force recognises the essential link between economics and politics saying how there is the recognition that the recognition that "strong political reform, the rule of law and a transformation into a strong democracy are all important parts of ensuring the economic growth and development, sustainability and stability of a nation." Ashton was also keen to stress that the work of the Task Force was not limited to its week in Myanmar and that "it is the beginning of the work that we will do in the days, weeks, months and years to come to show to you and to the people that we stand with you and that we will not fail you".
The Task Force then focused its work on three different sessions: Political, Economics and Inter-Parliamentary which followed up on the discussions that had taken place the previous day in Yangon.
The significant progress that has been made in restoring peace and promoting reconciliation among Myanmar's different ethnic groups was welcomed by the Task Force and it stressed the importance of launching an inclusive political dialogue aimed at achieving a lasting peace for the first time in sixty years.
The Task Force welcomed the progress towards EU joint programming of development aid for Myanmar, with a particular focus on health, education, rural development and food security, trade and private sector development, governance and the peace process.
Significant attention was also devoted to the key role of agriculture in Myanmar. Rural development and food security are essential to ensure safe and secure food for all, but also improve the livelihoods of farmers and provide opportunities for rural communities.
The Task Force noted that the Myanmar government's intentions to boost investment in key sectors of the economy, and particularly in infrastructure, will bring new job opportunities for Myanmar and new opportunities for investment from - and joint ventures with - European industry. The Task Force also took note of the recommendations of European enterprises doing business in Myanmar, or considering doing business in the country, on the need to foster a stable and predictable business environment. Looking ahead the Task Force agreed to establish an EU-Myanmar Business Council to advise the Government on ways to facilitate these business links.
Meer over ...