Following Thein Sein’s appointment as president in early 2011, the government undertook ambitious political and economic reforms leading to a substantial opening of Myanmar towards the international community. These reforms aimed to gradually introduce democracy, improve the economy, and establish a more open and equitable society.
After the opening of an EU delegation in Yangon in April 2012, the restrictive measures imposed on the Burmese government were suspended, and ultimately lifted in 2013, with the exception of an arms embargo. In November 2013, an EU-Myanmar Task Force took place in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, bringing together all tools and mechanisms available to support democratisation, and an EU Election Observation Mission was deployed for the general elections in November 2015.
Cooperation between Myanmar and the EU has considerably evolved in several other fields: in addition to the launch of a high-level Human Right Dialogue in May 2014, the EU increased the budget allocated to development cooperation in Eastern Asia. Myanmar was reinstated into the Everything But Arms regime under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences and is now the second largest recipient of bilateral development aid in Asia. The EU Annual Action Programme 2015 for Myanmar prioritises peace and national reconciliation, democracy-building, development, trade and the re-integration of Myanmar into the international community.
In the national legislative elections in November 2015, the National League for Democracy had a landslide victory. On 15 March 2016, the Parliament elected Htin Kyaw as president, while NLD’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, barred from the presidency by a constitutional clause, unofficially vowed to be the de facto leader from behind the scenes.
Key EU-Myanmar Documents (click to expand)
Comprehensive Framework for the European Union’s policy and support to Myanmar/Burma
The Comprehensive Framework for the EU’s policy and support to Myanmar/Burma aims to promote political, social and economic development in Myanmar, fostering respect for human rights and assisting the Burmese government in rebuilding its place in the international community.
With this document the EU intends to address four main priorities:
- Peace: the EU will encourage the immediate end of hostilities across the country, support the launch of inclusive political negotiations, and press the government to improve humanitarian assistance and to address inter-communal violence;
- Democracy: the EU will support the Constitutional review process, strengthen the Parliament and the rule of law, work for credible, transparent and inclusive elections, and foster human rights and civil society’s activities;
- Development and trade: the EU will help the government to lay the foundations for inclusive economic development, promote transparency and accountability in all industries, eliminate all forms of forced labour, promote CSR, improve rural livelihoods and food security and rebuild the education system. Moreover, the EU will establish a trade and investment partnership with Myanmar and will support the government in Myanmar’s integration process into ASEAN;
- Myanmar/Burma engagement with the international community: the EU will work to improve the country’s emergency response through knowledge sharing and capacity building, to support Myanmar’s participation in regional integration and to promote the adherence to and implementation of all relevant international agreements in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament.
Country Strategy Paper (2007-2013)
The Myanmar Country Strategy Paper provided the framework for EU assistance for the period 2007-2013. It set out objectives, policy response and priority areas for assistance based on both the political and socio-economic situations.
Assistance for the period 2007-2013 focused on two main sectors, i.e. education and health. EU programmes and projects were implemented through UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, and decentralised cooperation with local civilian administrations. The Commission’s assistance programmes systematically integrated the promotion of democracy and human rights.
Multiannual Indicative Programme (2014-2020)
The Multiannual Indicative Programme outlines the strategic framework within which the European Commission assistance will be provided to Myanmar under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), for the period 2014-2020. It sets out the EU’s policy and cooperation goals, together with its intended strategic response.
The bilateral DCI budget allocation for Myanmar for the period 2014-2020 is €688 million, i.e. an average of broadly €98 million per annum. The EU and Myanmar have established the following priorities for cooperation through the bilateral envelope 2014-2020:
- Rural development / Agriculture / Food and nutrition security (35%);
- Education (35%);
- Governance / Rule of law / State capacity building (14%);
- Peace building support (15%);
- Support measures (1%).
Measures in favour of civil society across sectors (notably in peace building support and in governance) will account for approximately 5% of the entire budget for the given period.
Joint EU Development Partners’ Transitional Strategy for Myanmar (2014-2016)
The Joint EU Transitional Strategy for Myanmar for 2014-2016 was successfully launched with the Government of Myanmar in November 2014. The single framework that will guide the European Development Partners in their assistance to Myanmar represents the EU’s and its Member States’ commitment to aid effectiveness, working together to make a strong contribution to Myanmar’s ongoing development.
The EU, Member States, and Myanmar have established the following six focal areas for financing under the Joint Transitional Strategy 2014-2016:
- Peace building;
- Rural development;
- Trade and private sector development;
The Joint Transitional Strategy will also provide support to key cross-cutting issues such as human rights, civil society, gender and environment.