United Press International - February 14, 2012
YANGON, Myanmar, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The European Union says it is
pledging more development aid to Myanmar since its military
rulers began "unprecedented" moves toward democratic reforms.
EU Development Commissioner Andris Piedalgs arrived in Yangon
Sunday with an agenda that included a $200 million aid package
"to support democratic reforms and inclusive development in the
"The European Union welcomes the unprecedented developments
taking place in the country on core values of the EU --
democracy, human rights and the rule of law," Piedalgs said on
the eve of his weekend departure.
Meetings with Myanmar President Thein Sein and senior government
ministers -- as well as with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
-- would allow the EU to get a firmer grasp on fast-moving
reforms happening in the long-reclusive nation, Piedalgs said.
Suu Kyi is running for a seat in scheduled April 1 parliamentary
by-elections, which the EU and the United States regard as a key
test of the recent political reforms.
"Continued political progress could lead to a further easing or
lifting of restrictive measures by the end of April," an EU
About two-thirds of the new aid package is expected to be
committed this year with the rest coming in 2013.
As well as aiming to "strengthen civil society actors," the
funding will be used to "finance initiatives in the areas of
climate change and forestry" and to "support capacity-building
for improved planning, environmental governance and statistics."
EU foreign ministers last month moved to recognize Myanmar's
political reforms by agreeing to ease travel restrictions on
senior government officials, including the suspension of visa
bans on Sein and his Cabinet members, the Chinese news agency
Piedalgs said another aim of the trip would be to assess the
humanitarian situation with a visit to an EU-funded health
"The momentum of change in Myanmar is impressive and the EU
recognizes the need to do all it can to support the country at
this time," he said. "More dialogue will help better policies to
emerge, more money for development cooperation will promote
economic and social development and help reduce poverty."
Myanmar's grinding poverty presents huge problems for efforts
aimed at reducing childhood mortality, the EU says. Among
children under age 5, there are high rates of death caused by
pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, as well as endemic tuberculosis
The EU is already contributing $23.7 million to Myanmar through
the multi-donor Three Diseases Fund -- launched following the
withdrawal of the Global Fund for HIV, TB and Malaria from
Myanmar in 2005.
That program "reaches out to those who are most at risk of any of
these three diseases, particularly those living in remote and
hard-to-reach areas with limited or no access to public health
Officials say 1.7 million confirmed and probable cases of malaria
have been treated in Myanmar, while 160,000 new cases of
pulmonary TB have been detected and 19,000 people living with HIV
have received antiretroviral treatment.
Overall, the European Commission has provided $230 million in
development assistance to Myanmar since 1996.