Myanmar president's first trip to Europe strengthens ties with EU countries
Xinhua | 2013-3-8 14:33:51
By Agencies
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Myanmar President U Thein Sein's 11- day goodwill trip to Europe, which included Norway, Finland, Austria, Belgium and Italy and ended Thursday, has brought about enhancement of bilateral ties with the European Union countries.

U Thein Sein was accorded a rousing welcome back at the Yangon International Airport Friday morning.

During his trip to Norway, the first leg of his first European tour, U Thein Sein met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and discuss relations between the two countries.

U Thein Sein thanked Norway for its support in Myanmar's democratic transition, acknowledging Norwegian role in discussions with Paris Club member countries for lifting sanctions and resumption of low-interest loan by the World Bank and other international monetary institutions.

He acknowledged that Norway's clearance of Myanmar's debt has had an impact on other debt clearing.

He proposed cooperation on political reform, peace building, economic reform and environmental conservation.

The Norwegian prime minister pledged continued support for Myanmar's democratic transition, economic reform, peace process and improved diplomatic ties, saying that Norway would like to share its experience in the management of natural resources with Myanmar and help the country end conflicts in Rakhine and Kachin states.

In a separate meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, U Thein Sein invited Norwegian companies to invest in Myanmar's energy and information and technology sectors.

Pledging Norway's continued contribution to Myanmar in collaboration with EU member countries, ASEAN member and Asian countries, Eide said that Norwegian companies have great interest in making investment in environmental conservation in Myanmar.

During his second leg of the journey to Finland, U Thein Sein told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Helsinki that Myanmar's democratic reform could not be delayed nor reversed as it picks up momentum.

Niinisto voiced willing to extend a helping hand to Myanmar's political and economic reform, peace making process, establishment of good governance, rule of law and human resources development, pledging a grant of 6.5 million euros to Myanmar in 2014 after Finland, which is a Paris Club member, had already written off 50 percent of debt Myanmar owed to.

U Thein Sein expressed Myanmar's desire to cooperate with Finland as a partner country in its bid for developments and join freight handling and environmental conservation in its plan for building three deep seaports.

In his third leg of European trip to Austria, U Thein Sein held talks with his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fisher and Prime Minister Werner Faymann in Vienna, in which the Austrian side pledged support for full lifting of EU sanctions against Myanmar.

Speaking at Myanmar-Austria Economic Forum, U Thein Sein invited Austrian investment in Myanmar.

In his fourth leg of European tour to Belgium, U Thein Sein held talks with President of the European Commission Jose Mannel Barroso, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulzthe and Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs Elmar Brok in Brussels.

U Thein Sein mainly raised request of ending all economic sanctions and restoration of GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) for Myanmar and extension of humanitarian assistance to the country's Kachin and Rakhine states in crisis, while pledging to work towards a new and more inclusive Myanmar and continue on the path to domestic peace.

Myanmar and the European Union signed an agreement on cooperation on crisis response between them.

In his final leg of tour to Italy, U Thein Sein met his Italian counterpart Giorgeo Napolitano and Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome.

The Italian side held the same stance as other EU countries agreed to the lifting of overall EU sanctions against Myanmar and resumed access for Myanmar exporters to GSP.

The two sides signed an agreement on the Treatment ( Cancellation and Rescheduling) of the Debt and an agreement on Debt for Development Swap.

It was U Thein Sein's first foreign trip to Europe in 2013 which began on Feb. 25.

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