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EU to Open Representative Office in Burma


The European Union says it will open a representative office in Burma in the near future.

Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, told VOA Tuesday that an agreement has been reached with the Burmese government to open an office in Rangoon. "It won't be a full EU delegation or anything like that. It will just be an office responsible mainly for the management of aid programs and so forth. As to when it would be put in place, that's just a question for how long the administrative procedures might take. So I haven't got any precise information at this time," he said.

The office will report to the EU ambassador in Bangkok, in neighboring Thailand.

The EU decision follows the handover of power to a nominally civilian government in Burma in March.

After the November 2010 election, Burma's first in 20 years, the European Union and other western countries said they would observe developments with a view of easing sanctions if the new government implements democratic reforms. The sanctions were imposed following bloody military crackdowns on a pro-democracy movement.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma in November to assess its reform process, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague is in the country this week. Politicians and rights groups have welcomed the government's moves to start a dialogue with the opposition and Burmese ethnic groups, but they are disappointed with the continued incarceration of a large number of political prisoners.

Ashton sent her top foreign policy adviser Robert Cooper to Burma last year, and the EU, in a move to encourage reform, slightly eased sanctions in April by ending travel bans and asset freezes on 24 civilian government officials.

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