Myanmar: Speech on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP debate


Delivered by Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová

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Thank you very much Madam President, Honourable members, 

Indeed you are right, this is the matter of the whole [European] Commission, this is not only the matter of [the High Representative/Vice-President] Josep Borrell, who cannot be here today because he had to choose how to spend his time with the urgent situation around Ukraine especially, and he is in Versailles, in Paris for the European Council. 

But, indeed you are right by saying that the public attention is now focused on the war in Ukraine, and that the gross violations of human rights and disproportionate use of force applied by the military regime in Myanmar increased in recent weeks and months, and this must not be forgotten. We should not lose sight of this horrifying situation. The country’s democratic transition has been halted with disastrous humanitarian, social, security, economic and human rights consequences.  

The Myanmar military increased arbitrary detentions, and used even more torture, sexual and gender-based violence, persecution of civil society, human rights defenders and journalists, as well as attacks on the civilian population, including ethnic and religious minorities. According to the United Nations, half of the population is now living under the poverty level. 

Our policy response is robust and coordinated with like-minded partners. It supports ASEAN and United Nations efforts in devising a peaceful solution to the crisis. We have imposed sanctions, withheld or reoriented development assistance and stepped up humanitarian support. 

On 21st February, the European Union has adopted a fourth package of restrictive measures. These add to the existing EU restrictive measures, including an arms embargo. All sanctions now apply to a total of 65 individuals and 10 entities. This includes now also the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), the country’s main petrol producer. It is key to cut financial resources of the military junta, while seeking to avoid unnecessary suffering for the Myanmar population. 

In parallel, the European Union and its Member States remain one of the most important donors in Myanmar with an envelope of EUR 65 million. In response to the needs, the European Union has provided over EUR 23 million in 2021. 

So far, it is the European Union’s policy to maintain our unilateral trade preferences under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, with a view to avoiding to harm the most vulnerable, particularly female workers in the garment sector. The scheme contributes to the strengthening of the resilience of the general population.  

As regards justice and accountability, we increased our financial support to the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar by EUR 1 million.  

At the multilateral level, we will present a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council to help ensure the human rights situation in Myanmar remains high on the agenda of the international community.  

Let me also inform you that we have appointed the EU’s Ambassador to ASEAN [‎Igor Driesmans] to be also our new Special Envoy to Myanmar, to support the efforts of the UN and ASEAN’s Special Envoys and to reach out to other international and regional actors. 

Let me assure you: the crisis in Ukraine does not mean we forget the acute suffering of the people of Myanmar. The European Union keeps all policy options under review, with the aim of supporting the people of Myanmar and bringing the country back to a path towards democracy. 

Thank you. 

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Nabila Massrali
Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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Xavier Cifre Quatresols
Press Officer for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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