Next month’s Asean-EU talks will go ahead



THE Asean-EU talks will go ahead despite earlier speculation that a scheduled meeting in Laos would not take place because several European countries were planning to send low-level representations or boycott it altogether.

But Mr Bounkeut Sangsomsak, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry in Laos, which is hosting the event next month, said 11 of the 15 European Union nations have already indicated that they would take part.

Of those attending, 10 were sending ministers or their deputies.

“I am confident that we have laid sufficient groundwork for Asean and the EU ministers to get together,” he told The Straits Times on the sidelines of preparatory meetings for the Asean informal summit in Singapore.

He said that it was only “a matter of time” before Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal – which have yet to confirm their attendance – would join the other EU nations.

He declined to speculate as to why they were holding back, except to say that talks were still under way “to persuade them of the merits” of the dialogue.

His comments follow a recent report from Bangkok quoting a Thai official as saying that the meeting might not materialise because not many EU ministers would be able to attend.

But Mr Bounkeut denied this and produced a list which showed EU states were sending high-level ministers to the meeting.

The EU, which has long been critical of Myanmar’s human-rights record, agreed earlier this year to resume the dialogue with Asean which they suspended three years ago after objecting to the presence of Myanmar.

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