The European Union has been at the forefront of steering Myanmar’s engagement with the international community as the country is trying to introduce remarkable reforms and open itself to the world. The EU is firmly committed to supporting Myanmar and its people on its path to democracy, peace and prosperity as well as its successful democratization and inclusive socio-economic development. Brussels hopes that Myanmar will eventually strengthen the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the EU’s natural partner in South East Asia.
The EU has guided Myanmar’s transition and helped the country respond to political changes by providing strong support for democratic and economic reforms from the very beginning. As part of these efforts, the EU suspended sanctions and opened an office in the country already in 2012. A year later, all EU sanctions, with the exception of an arms embargo, were lifted and trade preferences under the “Everything But Arms” program, which allows duty free and quota free access to the single European market, were restored. In 2013, the EU also opened a full-fledged EU Delegation and an EU-Myanmar Task Force meeting took place in Yangon.
The EU’s involvement continued in 2015 when the bloc signed and supported the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement as an international witness, reflecting its key role in supporting the peace process. The EU also deployed the largest international Election Observation Mission with some 100 observers to monitor the 2015 general election, on the invitation of the Union Election Commission. This year, Brussels deployed an Election Expert Mission, confirming the importance the EU attaches to the electoral reform in the country.