Jan 09, Colombo: At the invitation of the Government of Sri Lanka, members of the 'Friends of Sri Lanka Group' of the European Parliament Geoffrey Van Orden, MEP and Lord William Dartmouth, MEP undertook a visit to the country from 2 to 6 January 2019.
During their 5 day stay, the Parliamentarians held wide consultations with representatives of the Government, Opposition, Political Parties as well as other officials.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said these meetings facilitated a forum to discuss issues of common interest relating to EU - Sri Lanka co-operation in a number of fields from GSP+, regional issues, governance and the rule of law, civil society issues and human rights amongst others.
In Colombo, they met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana, Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrema, where discussions were held on the recent political developments, constitutional reforms as well as the need for Sri Lanka to maximize GSP+ utilization for development.
The MEPs welcomed the progress in further consolidating democracy, particularly the rule of law and strengthening the democratic institutions, which was part of their engagement process with Sri Lanka.
The EU Parliamentarians also had the opportunity to meet with the Leader of the Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa, Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan and Leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Rauf Hakeem.
During their visit to Vavuniya the Security Forces Commander/Wanni, Major General Kumudu Perera briefed the MEPs on the key contributions by the Army aiding resettlement activities, which was commended by the MEPs. They also met with the District Secretary (GA) of Vavuniya, and visited a resettlement village in Sithampirapuram, Vavuniya, where they engaged in an open dialogue with the inhabitants of the area taking stock of the progression in the reconciliation process.
A visit was also arranged to the MAS Fabric Park in Thulhiriya, to familiarize the MEPs on the state-of-the-art sustainable apparel manufacturing carried out by MAS, contributing to employment generation and livelihood and economic empowerment in the area noting the accruing benefits of the GSP+ for the industry.
Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, Executive Director, of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies had an interactive session with the MEPs on the geo-political developments in the region and Sri Lanka's relations with major international players.
The Friends of Sri Lanka Group in the EU Parliament, since its inception in 2006, has been involved in the promotion of EU - Sri Lanka relations complementing the process of EU assistance to Sri Lanka. Geoffrey Van Orden, MEP has served as Chair of the Group since its inception. Lord Dartmouth joined the Group in 2012.
The Friends of Sri Lanka Group, last visited Sri Lanka in February 2016.