Since early 2011, Myanmar/Burma has embarked on a remarkable path of political and economic reforms, departing from five decades of authoritarian rule. The government has committed itself to introducing genuine democracy, and some significant steps have been taken towards establishing a more open and equitable society. The reform process focuses on the transition to democracy, economic and social reforms, and efforts to make peace with a number of ethnic groups within the country.
Opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest and her party's return to the formal political process were further milestones in the peaceful transition to democracy and have injected a positive dynamism into political life.
The EU is encouraged by the government's commitment to releasing all political prisoners by the end of 2013, its ongoing efforts to review and reform legislation, its willingness to address ecological and economic concerns voiced by civil society, the easing of media censorship and the passage of legislation in the field of labour law. All these developments make the promises of reform more credible.
A nationwide ceasefire conference is likely to take place in the months to come. This will open the way to a political dialogue with the objective of achieving lasting peace and ending more than sixty years of armed conflict.
The restrictive measures imposed by the EU on the government were suspended in April 2012 and lifted in 2013 (apart from the arms embargo), in order to welcome and encourage the reform process.
In July 2013, the EU reinstated Myanmar/Burma's access to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which provides for duty-free and quota-free access for the country's products to the European market.
The Comprehensive Framework, which sets out EU policy and the support the EU has undertaken to provide until 2015 to the ongoing reforms in Myanmar/Burma, was adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 July 2013. Peace, democracy, development and trade and Myanmar/Burma's engagement with the international community have been identified as the main areas for engagement.
The joint EU-Myanmar Task Force, which met from 13 to 15 November 2013 in Yangon and Naypyitaw, is the most visible expression of the lasting partnership the EU and Myanmar are building. The Task Force aims to provide comprehensive support to the transition in Myanmar/Burma by deploying all the tools and mechanisms, both political and economic, that are available to the EU. These include development aid, parliamentary cooperation, support to the peace process and investment.
The EU looks forward to Myanmar/Burma's first ASEAN Chairmanship in 2014 and the constructive role the country will play in expanding EU-ASEAN cooperation in the direction of a more ambitious, more political partnership.
Currently, bilateral relations are framed by the Council Conclusions of 22 April 2013 and the Council Decision 2013/184/CFSP of 22 April 2013 as well as by the Council conclusions of 22 July 2013 on the Comprehensive Framework for the European Union's policy and support to Myanmar/Burma .