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#SriLanka: European Commission announces €38 million for new development programmes in Sri Lanka

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sri lankaToday the European Commission will co-sign two new support programmes worth €38 million in total in the field of rural development and trade with Sri Lanka, as EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, arrives for a three day visit to the country.

Ahead of the visit Commissioner Mimica said: "With this new support, we are boosting our longstanding relationship with Sri Lanka on development cooperation. The EU has made an important contribution in providing humanitarian assistance and reconstruction support to help Sri Lanka recover from the war and the tsunami. Now our focus is on providing long-term support towards poverty reduction and local economic development. We have a new opportunity to support governance and reconciliation efforts and help address the root causes of the conflict in Sri Lanka. "

During his visit, Commissioner Mimica will hold a series of high-level meetings, including with the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, and other senior members of the government. Mimica will also meet with civil society representatives, including those working on women's empowerment, child rights, disappeared people and media freedom.

Programmes explained

€30 million will go to the programme "Integrated Rural Development in the Most Vulnerable Districts of the Central and Uva Provinces" The programme aims to improve livelihoods and household incomes, as well as access to drinking water and healthcare services for the most vulnerable of the population in Sri Lanka.

€8 million will go towards trade related assistance to help Sri Lanka reap the benefits of further integration into the global and regional trading system. It will help the country develop relevant policies, and improve their market access, competitiveness and compliance with international standards.

Background

For the period 2014 to 2020, the EU has allocated €210 million to Sri Lanka for rural development (the amount is almost double the previous amount of €110 million allocated in the period 2007 to 2013). While the previous development programme supported tsunami and conflict-affected areas, the new programme aims to support the country in its transition to becoming an upper middle income country.

The EU and Sri Lanka have had a longstanding cooperative partnership spanning 41 years since the first Sri Lanka-EU Commercial Cooperation Agreement signed in 1975. Over the last 10 years, the EU has allocated €760 million in development and humanitarian assistance to the country.

Support has been directed towards poverty reduction and provision of basic infrastructure and services for the most vulnerable of the country's population and support for local economic development and the strengthening of local governance. The EU has also supported post-tsunami reconstruction, humanitarian relief and conflict affected communities. In addition, the EU continues to provide other sources of funding in the form of electoral assistance, to support civil society organizations, local authorities, environment, human rights, and to support academic exchanges.

Economy

'Integration and inclusion means listening to migrant communities' Johansson

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The European Commission launched (24 November) its latest action plan on integration and inclusion for the period 2021-2027. The action plan promotes inclusion for all, recognizing the barriers that can hinder integration. 

It is built on the principle that inclusive integration requires efforts from both the person and the host community and sets out new actions that build on the achievements of the previous action plan from 2016. The new approach also looks at how host communities can help migrants integrate.

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: "Migrants are ‘us', not ‘them'. Everyone has a role to play in making sure our societies are cohesive and prosperous. Integration and inclusion mean listening to migrant communities and ensuring that everyone can enjoy rights, regardless of background. Inclusive integration is giving the same tools and support needed to contribute to society, so that migrants can reach their full potential and our societies benefit from their strength and skills.”

In the  Pact on Migration and Asylum,  the EU underlines that successful integration and inclusion is an essential part of a well-managed and effective migration and asylum policy. 

The action plan proposes targeted and tailored support that takes into account specific challenges of different migrant groups, such as gender or religious background. 

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Commission president announces contract 160 million doses of Moderna vaccine

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President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced today (24 November) that the Commission will approve its 6th contract for a COVID-19 vaccine with an order for up to 160 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, recently found to have 95% effective in recent trials. 

The Commission has also made orders with CureVacc, Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica. Once the vaccine is indeed proven as safe and effective, every member state will receive it at the same time on a pro-rata basis on the same conditions.

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Kazakhstan to ensure that more women are elected

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MEPs have welcomed attempts by Kazakhstan to ensure that more women are elected in its upcoming parliament elections. This comes  just ahead of the next elections, which have been set for January 10, 2021. This will elect members to the lower house of the country’s parliament, known as the Majlis. It will be the energy-rich Central Asian country’s first parliamentary elections since Kassym-Jomart Toqaev in 2019 succeeded Nursultan Nazarbaev, who resigned that year after nearly three decades in power, writes Colin Stevens.

In a departure from custom, the date falls at the end of the legislature’s five-year term,

President Tokayev says the electoral and political process has been liberalized to allow for more involvement from civil society.He refers specifically to what was dubbed the parliamentary opposition bill – a piece of legislation that he approved in June. Under this change to the law, non-ruling parties are supposed to acquire a greater say in setting the legislative agenda.

This is important in the context of the Mazhilis, the lower house of parliament, where the governing Nur Otan party won 84 out of the 107 seats up for grabs in the 2016 election.

Tokayev said another positive change was the mandatory 30 percent quota on party lists for women and youths. For the purposes of this requirement, a youth means anybody under 29-years-old.

Elections for local government bodies, the Maslikhats, are taking place on the same date.

There are currently six registered political parties in Kazakhstan. Nur Otan, which has as its figurehead the former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, The other two forces in parliament are the pro-business Ak-Zhol, which bills itself as the “constructive opposition,” and the Communist People's Party of Kazakhstan, or KNPK.

A recent poll (in which 7,000 people were questioned) showed 77 percent of respondents plan to cast their ballot.

The last parliamentary elections were held in March 2016.

Ahead of the elections, this website canvassed the opinions of MEPs and others.

Andris Ameriks, vice chairman of the Central Asian delegation in the European Parliament, told EU Reporter: “During these elections, people of Kazakhstan will make their choice in electing deputies for the following 5 years. I believe that the nation of Kazakhstan will make the right choice, while Kazakh leadership will follow the democratic processes in the name of prosperity and wellbeing of the country and its people.”

He added: “I greatly welcome continuation of ex-President Nazarbayev’s established direction in the legal reforms and actions taken by the current Kazakh leadership in developing the country’s democracy, transparency and good governance.

“Introduction of a mandatory quota of 30% of women and young people on the party lists, signed by President Tokayev, is of  great importance for the further development of balanced political life in  Kazakhstan and for keeping the politics in line with the world’s practice.

“The results of the elections are highly important for Kazakhstan, Central Asian region and for the EU as for a close partner of Kazakhstan, therefore I hope that people of Kazakhstan will be active and responsible in deciding who will represent them in the Majilis during the next five years.

“At a time when the whole world is struggling with a pandemic that has caused great social turmoil and provoked national governments, it is vital that these elections provide a real example of mutual trust between the people and the authorities.”

Slovenian RE member Klemen Groselj, who is parliament’s standing rapporteur on Kazakhstan, said: “Kazakhstan is already an important partner of the EU in Central Asia, especially in the energy field, but there are also other possibilities of cooperation that have not been fully exploited yet.

“Looking at recent events in the South Caucasus, I believe there is now more than ever a mutual interest in a further development and strengthening of existing relations. I see a wide range of concrete opportunities for cooperation in the near future, for instance in the framework of the Green Deal and Digitalization.”

On the election, he added: “I expect the Kazakh authorities to guarantee the necessary conditions for a free and fair election process while providing adequate precautionary measures in light of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Open, safe, transparent and fair elections can be a solid foundation for the future growth of our economic and political cooperation with Kazakhstan.”

Greens MEP Viola von Cramon noted: “With decreasing Russian influence and progressively aggressive China, central Asian republics, including Kazakhstan are signalling some openness to the EU. It is a positive sign.

"There had been positive steps were made in guaranteeing the basic right of assembly and investigating tortures by law enforcement officials. The question is now how far will the controlled democratization will go.

“In regard to the upcoming elections, having a mandatory 30% quota for women and young people as well as an increased role of opposition in the legislative process is a welcome change. How will the rankings in the list be distributed and whether we will see truly critical opposition gaining ground in the lower house of the Parliament? We will be very closely following these changes.”

Peter Stano, EU spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. told this website: "The EU welcomes the invitation extended to OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and members of the European Parliament to observe the 10 January 2021 Kazakhstan parliamentary elections. In light of the ongoing  reform and modernization processes in Kazakhstan, in particular the  adoption of laws on elections and  political parties (May 2019), the EU expects the elections to be conducted in a free, open and transparent manner, fully respecting the freedoms of expression and assembly."

He said: "The EU welcomes that for  the  first  time  a  30  percent  quota  will  be  introduced  in  party  lists  for  women  and youth jointly. The EU encourages Kazakhstan to avail of the advice and expertise of the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) and to fully implement the recommendations made previously and any that may be forthcoming."

Fraser Cameron, director of the Brussels-based EU/Asia Centre, said that the elections “should mark another step forward in Kazakhstan’s  steady progress towards a more open and democratic society”.

The former European commission official added: “It would be important to allow more parties to compete than was the case during the last parliamentary elections.”

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