Sri Lankan opposition leader asks EU not to withdraw its GSP status

The European Union (EU) should not withdraw its Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status of Sri Lanka, Sajith Premadasa, Sri Lanka’s opposition leader has said to a visiting EU delegation, terming the GSP+ status a “great strength” to the island’s economy

Sep 30, 2021
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Sri Lanka-EU

The European Union (EU) should not withdraw its Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status of Sri Lanka, Sajith Premadasa, Sri Lanka’s opposition leader has said to a visiting EU delegation, terming the GSP+ status a “great strength” to the island’s economy.

An EU delegation is on a visit to Sri Lanka to study whether or not the GSP Plus concession that the country was able to win during the previous government should be extended. Earlier, the EU commission had warned Sri Lanka of withdrawing the special status given its poor and deteriorating track record on human rights, and reconciliation efforts.

Sajith, who met the EU delegation this week, also said the necessary support should be provided to continue to grant and thanked the European Commission for its financial assistance to Sri Lanka, GSP Plus, and international relief, according to a report in Colombo page. 

The delegation will take an overall view of the situation in the country, the rule of law, human rights, freedom and equality, reconciliation, the environment, media freedom, civil liberties, and many other issues.

Sri Lanka has been in the crosshair of western countries and rights bodies ever since the Rajapaksa brothers returned to power in 2019. The current government has been accused of rolling back--and pushing back-- what little progress the island nation had achieved on providing justice to victims of the country’s three-decade-long civil war.

Earlier in March, the UNHRC adopted a resolution that underscored a “persistent lack of accountability of domestic mechanisms”. 

The resolution also called for strengthening the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner to “collect, consolidate, analyze, and preserve” information and evidence and to develop strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka. 

The threat of withdrawing GSP came after the Rajapkasha government hardened its position on human rights and transitional justice issues. However, for Sri Lanka’s already struggling economy, the withdrawal of the EU’s GSP+ status would be a death blow. Sri Lanka’s export sector is heavily dependent on the EU market.  

Lately, trade relations between the EU and Sri Lanka have also soured due to the latter’s strict import control regulations.  

(SAM)