The Trouble with the EU and EC
Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Last month, a European Union delegation canceled its planned trip to Burma after the Burmese regime refused to allow it to meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, several informed EU sources suggested that some of the community's member states are still interested in visiting Naypyidaw for talks with Burmese officials even if the request to meet Suu Kyi is not granted.

The Irrawaddy has also learned that several EU officials who belong to the “engagement camp” are also pushing the policy of greater engagement with the regime.

Piero Fassino, the EU’s special envoy on Burma, is clearly in favor of visiting the country again. Recent requests by Fassino to visit Burma have been rejected by the junta, however, while missions he was able to undertake in the past failed miserably.

Fassino is known to have little knowledge of Burma and its political situation. So why would he want to revisit the country?

Engaging the regime in Burma is fine as long as the regime has the political will and engagement produces a tangible outcome. But the EU's engagement policy has produced nothing positive so far.

Burma campaign groups previously expressed concern that the EU envoy on Burma has on occasion appeared to publicly and privately undermine the “very common position” which he is mandated to advocate with Asian countries.

Indeed, the EU common policy is to maintain or increase sanctions against the regime and support political dialogue and national reconciliation between the opposition and the regime. It can also increase pressure if necessary, including imposing an arms embargo on Burma. 

Yet the EU has still failed to employ its full economic and political pressure to produce a positive outcome in military-ruled Burma.

The complexity of the EU cannot be denied—but, alarmingly, some member states don’t stick to the community's common policy, resulting in tension and confusion within the grouping.

The trouble is that the EU’s Burma policy sends mixed signals to Burmese democratic forces inside and outside Burma. 

The Irrawaddy has learned that detained democracy leader Suu Kyi herself and senior members of the now-banned NLD have recently expressed concern over the EU’s policy.

It is believed that the UK, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands want to maintain the EU’s common policy but some other member countries, especially Germany and Spain, are pushing more of a pro-engagement line if not openly supporting the regime’s sham election and some controversial and shady figures belonging to a “third force” inside Burma.

Unlike European Parliament members, bureaucrats at the European Commission (EC) have supported a dialogue with the junta and increased its cooperation with some shady allies of the junta and the “third force” while cutting funding for refugees on the Thai-Burmese border.

Cooperation with a “third force” and some shady figures supporting the regime’s sham election and undermining the main opposition parties and activists and civil society groups inside and outside Burma is questionable.

What is interesting is that some EC officials have covertly supported the “third force” inside the country in the creation of a civil society. Do EC bureaucrats really believe that these half-baked “third force” people, who are merely spokesmen of the regime, can create a civil society in Burma?

No wonder Burmese inside and outside the country see EC bureaucrats as part of the problem in Burma’s complicated political landscape. They appear to support a controversial “third force” inside Burma and the regime’s sham election instead of increasing targeted sanctions against the regime and its cronies or supporting the UN human rights envoy’s commission of inquiry on crimes against humanity.

In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma stated that human rights abuses in Burma are very serious and that the UN should consider establishing a commission of inquiry into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. So far, the EU is silent on this issue, as if the regime has committed no crimes at all.

Sadly, on the Thai-Burmese border, the EC’s decision to cut funding for relief work on the Thai-Burmese border sent a shock wave through the area as the EU is one of the major donors there.

Refugee agencies on the Thai-Burmese border said they are concerned that a cut in funds could hurt medical programs for Burmese refugees.

According to London-based Burma campaign UK: “The European Commission has consistently refused to fund such aid, and has failed to provide an adequate explanation as to why, instead making vague statements about accountability and monitoring.

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plan B Wrote:
Now that the sanctions have failed and EU wants to promote "Engagement" your sentiment is to expose these elements!
I am interested in that entity too.
SO far zilch effort and still claiming "useless" in engaging SPDC.
Are the others less ignorant of Myanmar than these entities?
How long did it take to prove sanctions failure again?
WIll EU and USA devote 1/2 the amount of time just to prove sincerity in "ENGAGEMENT"?
How about the damages to the most vulnerable?
WIll you also put a time limit?
That is not mentioning the substance in this so called ongoing "engagement" or "faking it".
From my point of view as a Burmese:
1) Giving back what you took from me!
2) Demanding preconditions!
3) Not acknowledging past iniquities against my people!
DO NOT constitute or any where close to "SPIRIT OF ENGAGEMENT".
So why blame SPDC for not dignifying these nefarious racist overture?
I and my ilk are on that list.
Can you live with that?

Kerry Wrote:
The EC must play no part in prolonging the agony and suffering in Burma.

'Free and fair elections' are not possible under the brutally enforced post-Nargis Constitution.

'Engagement' with an archaic military dictatorship that jails all opposition and brutalizes its people in all ways is not an option.

ASEAN has not yet been embarrassed enough yet, and just looks foolish. China is exposed but still devoid of a conscience. They are of course afraid of the consequences of their own internal human rights transgressions, so support the brutality of others for gain and as a distraction.

It is up to all humane people in the world (and the Burmese people inside Burma) to act together to free this beautiful, sad and destroyed country, and free its elected ones to rebuild.

It is up to the UN to address the flaws within which has allowed those with responsibility to block humanitarian action on behalf of the beautiful people of Burma.

In 2010 this brutal farce has gone on long enough!

Michel Gourd Wrote:
The world's largest democracy should help Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi’s country junta leader General Than Shwe visit to India next week can be vital to democracy. Than Shwe has ruled the country with authoritarianism for the past two decades. Than Shwe four-day official state visit to discuss military co-operation and a series of energy and business deals can be use to help him make the decision of freeing Aung San Suu Kyi and letting her participate in the coming election.

By help freeing Aung San Suu Kyi, India can beat China on the world stage as the more responsible superpower to come. She could be one formidable help to India in its way to stardom. India and China, democracy and dictatorship, is now competing to be the future of the world? Aung San Suu Kyi is a test for India. If India succeeds in freeing her, all humanists in the world will recognize the country as a powerful player to follow in the world to come.

Derek Tonkin Wrote:
EU Special Envoy Piero Fassino has never to my knowledge paid any visit to Burma, so I am puzzled to read that his previous missions have "failed miserably". EU Common Policy on "restrictive measures" is not as you say "to maintain or increase sanctions" but "to revise, amend or reinforce the measures it has already adopted in light of developments on the ground." (Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions - 26 April 2010). MEPs, by the way, fully support Mr Fassino's mission, though normally only some 8% of the 736 Members attend and vote at EP debates on Burma. Mr Fassino was appointed to his position on 6 November 2007 and has an unrivalled experience negotiating at the very senior level on Burmese affairs, attending most major meetings in capital cities. To say that he has "little knowledge of Burma and the political situation" is a most regrettable slur on his knowledge and competence. There are other distortions and misrepresentations too numerous to detail in the space allotted.

SAM Wrote:
"some controversial and shady figures belonging to a “third force” inside Burma"

Since this is a published article, you cannot be vague with these accusations. State a few persons or groups whom you suspect are controversial or shady.

Maybe later on, the Irrawaddy could develop a list of persons and their organisations, descriptions, etc. as they did for the political parties and their leaders...

Mike Woodgreen Wrote:
I am afraid that Mr Piero Fassino has not yet visited (in fact, has not yet being allowed to) Burma in his capacity as EU special envoy for Burma/ Myanmar. Therefore, the article's paragraphs on Mr Fassino could likely mislead the reader.

Venus Wrote:
My understanding and impression on the word "third force" defined by Ko Min Thu is
different from what "AUNG MOE ZAW" said in his article in "Building an opposition to opposition" that I'm convinced no other than regime's cronies.

Now again the word is used in this editorial, the translated version from You Tube editor's roundtable talk.

Could you please give us clear definition of the word "third force", what exactly and who definitely are third force inside and outside the country?

Dr.Myo.THI-HA Wrote:
Many different background countries are under the EU and EC umbrella. Even within one country like Belgium divided into 2 parts as French speaking and English/German speaking.

What are we expecting from EU & EC? Useless.

Basically EU & EC show the "fashion of sanction as same as US.

Which country follows the sanction practically? No one. Including UK.

Many of SPDC junta ruling Generals and partners (Tayza, Max Zaw Zaw) family members already settled down there with Millions of £/euro/$. They bought the world ranking no.1 to 20 banks assets. What did EC and EU properly do for the sanction to them?

All the exports from these SPDC business partners transit via either Brunei or S'pore, then changed in the log book "origin of products" to their country names in stead of Myanmar. All the exports gone to EU & EC countries. (labelled by 3rd party company name).

If someone believes in what EU& EC said/promies, he/she will be lost by then.

Soe Thane Wrote:
Why does the Burma Campaign UK only case about the refugees/IDPs on the Thailand border? Why don't they ever call for more money for aid to the 99% of other Burmese? Why does this article not mention all the good work the EC is doing inside Burma in getting humanitarian aid directly to needy people?

The NGOs in Burma the EC work with are not "Third Force" or any "Force". They are men and women, Burmese and international who are actually saving lives and helping the poorest villagers every day.

This editorial clearly cares more about keeping failed and half-dead political policies on life-support, rather the actual situation of millions of Burmese people.

More Articles in This Section

bullet Courage and Cowardice in the Courtroom

bullet The President's Speech

bullet Burma’s Trust Deficit

bullet Burma’s Much-Awaited News Finally Arrives

bullet A Cruel Clemency

bullet Human Rights in Burma: No Excuse for Delay

bullet Time for Thein Sein to Prove the Skeptics Wrong

bullet Making it Legal

bullet Burma's Forgotten Farmers

bullet One Year Later: Bogus Election Offers Some Hope

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