June 12, 2008 (LBO) – The European Union urged Sri Lanka to improve its human rights record and treatment of journalists as the country is set to re-apply for a trade concession extension later in the year. The EU was also helping build roads and do reconstruction but work was hampered due to a monopoly in bitumen and visa restrictions on humanitarian workers, he said.
A 148 million loan program to build a road between Matara in the south of the island and Baticaloa in the east was hit by shortage of bitumen.
Joao said democratic processes were beginning in the east of the island.
“Media freedom is essential for democracy,” European Commission’s external relations deputy director general Joao Aguiar Machado told reporters after ending consultations with the government.
“Concerns over human rights are not limited to the European countries. An international group of eminent persons and other countries have expressed similar views,” he said.
The GSP+ preferences, which allows apparel and other exports to enter EU at lower duty, which was coming up for renewal this year, was dependent on the government implementing 27 international covenants on human and civil rights.