The Burma Campaign today called on Baroness Ashton, the new EU high representative for Foreign Affairs, to support, not undermine EU policy on Burma, as European Commission officials have been doing for years.
The European Union adopted a joint foreign policy on Burma, the known as a Common Position, in 1996. The 27 EU Member states have agreed a strategy that includes targeted economic sanctions against Burma. These sanctions are also supported by the European Parliament. However, European Commission officials have consistently tried to undermine the EU policy of targeted sanctions. They have criticised sanctions publicly, privately, and organised conferences where speakers are chosen with heavy bias for those against current EU policy, including sanctions.
“Of the big three European Union institutions, the two with some democratic accountability, the Council of member states, and the European Parliament, have pursued a policy of targeted sanctions, but the Commission has pursued its own policy, undermining member states and Parliament,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “We cannot continue with a situation where unaccountable Commission officials use tax-payers money to pursue their own agenda, undermining the policy of the democratic institutions of the EU.”
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner has repeatedly contradicted EU member states, including opposing sanctions agreed after the 2007 democracy uprising and after the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. She has also taken a positive approach to fake elections due in Burma in 2010, which have been rejected in their current form by EU member states.
The contradictory messages given by the Commission compared to the EU Council and Parliament undermines the credibility and influence of the EU with Burma and its Asian neighbours. The Burma Campaign UK has written to the new high representative asking for an assurance that she will not pursue an independent foreign policy, but rather will work to ensure there is more cohesion, and that Commission officials do not publicly or privately try to undermine EU policy on Burma.