Impressed enough with Myanmar’s pro-democracy reforms, the European Union has announced €150 million ($199 million) worth of new aid for the country’s health, education and agriculture sectors.
In addition, there are reports the European Union is planning to reconsider some aid restrictions to enable broader engagement with the Myanmar government.
The EU package is the latest in a series of new financial aid promised to Myanmar since its civilian government started releasing political prisoners and implementing other pro-democracy reforms. Denmark and the United Kingdom have both pledged additional aid for the Asian country. The European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States have also eased some restrictions on Myanmar even as they press for additional reforms.
The announcement of the €150 million aid package comes ahead of European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs’ visit to Myanmar on Feb. 12-14. Piebalgs will be the first EU commissioner to meet with Myanmar’s new civilian authorities and is also set to meet with key opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. He follows in the footsteps of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Of the package, the European Union plans to commit $100 million in 2012 and $50 million in 2013. The money will be channeled through U.N. agencies, nongovernmental organizations and other partners. The European Union provides limited direct bilateral aid to the Myanmar government in line with existing policies. An EU diplomat has hinted the bloc may reconsider these policies by 2014, Europolitics reports.
Aside from the health, education and agriculture sectors, the funds will also support displaced people in ethnic areas. In addition, the package will finance efforts to strengthen civil society organizations, fight climate change effects and improve environmental governance.
The new funding comes on top of the €174 million worth of aid the European Union has given Myanmar since 1996. Reports that the European Union was considering this new package came as early as January, around the same time the bloc lifted travel bans on Myanmar leaders.
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