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Myanmar CSOs decline invitation by European Commission

Myanmar CSOs including Paung Ku, Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), Land in our Hands Network (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) have informed the EC that they will not participate in the debriefing on Friday April 28 on the EU-Myanmar Investment Protection Agreement. (IPA)

‘’We have expressed on numerous occasions that we are of the opinion that this is not the time to sign an IPA. Myanmar is in its initial stages of a democratisation and peace-building process. An IPA will lock in the current policy processes and have a serious chilling effect on future policy making in the interest of a peaceful and sustainable Myanmar, where rights and aspirations of different ethnic groups are guaranteed’’ says Dr Kyaw Thu from Paung Ku.

‘’We think that these negotiations have neglected all aspects of a transparent and accountable negotiation process and therefore prevent us from having a meaningful dialogue’’ says Saw Alex from KESAN. ‘’In 2014 the European Ombudsman opened formal investigations against the European Commission and the Council for failing to be transparent in the process of the TTIP negotiations. While some improvements have been made in the case of the negotiations with Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Indonesia, the negotiations with Myanmar have been kept completely secret. The dates of negotiation rounds have not been published in advance, no texts with EU’s positions were made publicly available, nor did the EU publish reports of any of the round of negotiations, except for the last one’’.

While the negotiations with the Philippines are on hold due to human rights violations, the EU seems to have no problem to sign a deal with Myanmar while fighting in Shan and Kachin State continues and human rights violations in Rakhine.

We had to find out that this current 5th round is taking place through a short reference made by an EU media spokesperson with Politico magazine last week. We then wrote the EC head of investment policy Mr Carlo Pettinato. In this letter we expressed our concern about the secrecy of the process. Until today we have not received a reply.

The Myanmar CSOs feel the invitation to this debriefing came very late. ‘’Given the high level of technicality of investment treaty texts we can not engage meaningfully in such a debriefing if the text is not made public beforehand so we can study the text and consult some legal experts. We repeat our request to make the negotiation text public’’ says Si Thu from Land in our Hands network.

The Myanmar CSOs remain open to discuss with the EC how to improve the transparency and accountability of the negotiation process. In conclusion, we are calling for the following actions to be taken by the European Union:
1)    Release the draft EU-Myanmar IPA text and translate into local language for public understanding
2)    Call for meaningful public consultation process where all concerns can be heard and considered
3)    As previously requested, conduct a dedicated Human Rights Impact Assessment to prevent incompatiblity with pre-existing human rights obligations
4)    Improve transparency and accountability of the negotiation process.
5)    Suspend the negotiation process on IPA until significant progress is made in the peace and national reconciliation process, which EU has also been largely supporting.

Yours sincerely,
Land In Our Hands

Karen Environmental and Social Action Network

Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability

Paung Ku