Written answers

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Department of Foreign Affairs

Human Rights Issues

9:00 pm

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Question 184: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the fact that the European Union has not to date explicitly stated that it will not accept the outcome of the current national convention convened by the ruling State Peace and Development Council in Burma unless it meets minimum democratic standards which were set by the European Union meeting here in April 2004, he will call on the European Union to officially state that it will not accept any outcome of the SPDC sponsored national convention unless the minimum democratic standards are met and will not attend the Asia regional forum and ASEAN post ministerial meetings if Burma chairs ASEAN in 2006 unless an accountable government is in place. [16219/05]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The Government has consistently condemned the lack of progress towards democracy in Burma and the continuing abuse of human rights and fundamental freedoms in that country. Together with our EU partners, we remain gravely concerned about the continuing house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, other opposition activists and a number of MPs elected in 1990. Regarding the outcome of the National Convention, now adjourned until an unspecified date in the autumn, it is clear that an eventual outcome falling short of minimum democratic standards would not be acceptable to Ireland or the EU.

While the members of ASEAN generally defend the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs, concern that the rotating chairmanship of the organisation is due to be held by Burma in 2006 has been growing in a number of its members. The ASEAN foreign ministers held an informal meeting in the Philippines on 11 and 12 April 2005 and agreed to defer a decision on this issue until their formal ministerial meeting in Laos in July. On 20 April, the Philippines Senate unanimously approved a resolution that Burma should not assume the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2006 unless there had been an improvement in the human rights situation, including the freeing of Aung San Suu Kyi. Ireland and our EU partners would, however, wish to see Burma's neighbours pressing much more strongly for progress towards democracy in that country.

At the seventh ASEM foreign ministers meeting, held at Kyoto from 6-7 May 2005, EU ministers, and ministers from the ASEAN member states, as well as those from China, Japan and Korea, renewed their call for the lifting of all restrictions and the development of the democratisation process in Burma at the earliest possible time with the involvement of all the parties concerned. Ministers also called on the Government of Burma to grant access to the special representative of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Razali Ismail, and to continue co-operation with other relevant UN agencies.

On 11 May 2005, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the EU to state that it will not participate in the ASEAN regional forum, the ASEAN post-ministerial meeting and other ASEAN meetings and events should Burma become the chair of ASEAN in 2006 without meeting any of the minimum conditions laid down at the sixth ASEM foreign ministers meeting in Kildare, which took place in April 2004.

The EU will now await the outcome of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Laos in July before taking a decision on the question of the Union's presence or otherwise at the ASEAN regional forum and ASEAN post ministerial meetings during 2006. We are aware that the United States has said that it would not attend ASEAN-related meetings with Burma in the chair. However, it is appropriate in the context of EU-ASEAN relations to allow for further discussion of this issue in ASEAN before coming to a decision on the EU's position.

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