EU Parliament Resolution throws down the gauntlet on GSP+

Friday, 11 June 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • EU Parliament adopts hard-hitting resolution urging temporary withdrawal of trade concessions to SL 
  • Calls for repeal of draconian PTA
  • Resolution raises detention of Hejaaz, Ahnaf and Shani Abeysekera 
  • Calls on GoSL to end practice of appointing military men to Govt. positions

The EU Parliament adopted a resolution yesterday calling on the EU Commission to consider temporary withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status and the benefits that come with it, noting the Government’s persistent failure to adopt and enact human rights reform and repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). 

The Resolution on Sri Lanka was adopted with 628 votes in favour, 15 against and 40 abstentions.

The resolution takes specific issue with the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to crackdown on minorities and dissidents and urges the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to use the preferential trade concessions as “leverage” to push for advancement on Sri Lanka’s human rights and demand the repeal or replacement of the PTA. 

Establishing a key link between the continuance of the trade concessions and the Government’s commitment on repealing or replacing the PTA, the resolution noted that when Sri Lanka regained access to GSP+ in 2017, it was on the condition that it would replace the draconian anti-terror law and effectively implements 27 international conventions, including the human rights conventions.

The resolution notes that the EU has repeatedly expressed concern over the PTA and noted Sri Lanka’s failure to repeal the act despite its commitment to doing so. 

The resolution calls on the EU Commission to “carefully assess whether there is sufficient reason, as a last resort, to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status and to report to Parliament on this matter as soon as possible.”

The resolution recalled that the GSP+ scheme offers the incentive of better access to the EU market for the country’s exporters, in return for further progress in fully implementing those conventions. 

One of Sri Lanka’s key commitments was to “fully align its counterterrorism legislation with international human rights conventions in order to secure a favourable trading relationship under the GSP+” the Resolution noted. 

The Resolution adopted by the EU Parliament yesterday also expressed “grave concern” about arbitrary arrests and detention under the PTA without due process, including for civil society activists, lawyers, writers and poets such as Hejaaz Hizbullah and Ahnaf Jazeem. 

The Resolution also noted with concern the detention of Shani Abeysekara, the former Director of the Criminal Investigation Department. 

The EU Parliament urged “the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) to immediately give those detained a fair trial on valid charges and, if there are no charges, to release them unconditionally.” 

The Resolution made note of the fact that the GSP+ scheme had offered Sri Lanka a significant economic boost, from which exports to the EU have increased to 2.3 billion euros, making the EU Sri Lanka’s second-largest export market. 

The EU Parliament resolution comes as Sri Lanka is facing another challenging resolution in the US Congress, as international pressure mounts on the Government's human rights record and failure to account for the brutal legacy of the civil war.