Myanmar: EU urges ‘inclusive’ charter review, ‘zero tolerance’ for violent extremism

The European Union has expressed hope that the constitutional review underway in Myanmar will help to bring peace and national reconciliation and pave the way for free and fair elections in 2015.

In a wide-ranging statement, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council also said it looked forward to a nationwide ceasefire agreement, called on the government to address the causes of communal violence and to guarantee respect for human rights and the rule of law and welcomed the latest release of political prisoners.

The 12-point statement, issued after the council met in Brussels on December 16, also called on the government to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations in Rakhine and Kachin states.

It further urged the government to ensure unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced population in the two states “and all those affected by conflict and violence.”

On constitutional reform, the council welcomed the appointment of a parliamentary review committee and called for “an inclusive review process to bring the constitution into line with the requirements of a modern democracy and to help achieve lasting peace and national reconciliation.”

“The constitution should enable the conduct of credible, transparent and inclusive general and presidential elections in 2015, allowing all candidates to fairly contest the elections,” it said.

Welcoming progress towards national reconciliation, the council said it looked forward to the conclusion of a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

“The EU stands ready to support an inclusive political dialogue which should lead to a lasting peace agreement,” it said, adding that the process should involve the participation of all stakeholders, including women.

The council said it looked forward to the government fulfilling its commitment to unconditionally free all remaining prisoners of conscience by the end of 2013 and it emphasized the need to end arbitrary arrests.

On communal violence, the council said it “invites” the government to pursue durable solutions, “including addressing the status and welfare needs of the Rohingya”.

“In order to contribute to peace-building and respect between communities, the EU strongly encourages development initiatives and the promotion of religious and ethnic tolerance,” said the statement, which urged “all leaders to take a zero tolerance approach to violent extremism.”

The council said it placed great importance on the involvement of civil society in building the institutions necessary for a modern, inclusive democracy in Myanmar.

The statement reiterated the EU’s strong commitment and continuous support for the democratic and economic transition in Myanmar.

It welcomed the outcome last month of the first meeting of the EU-Myanmar Task Force, “in particular the commitment to pursue a human rights dialogue, to continue the preparatory work towards the launch of an investment agreement in 2014, as well as the agreement in principle to extend EIB [European Investment Bank] lending to Myanmar/Burma from 2014.”