State Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake undertook an official visit to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union from 13th to 18th December 2017. He started the visit by attending the plenary sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13th and 14th December 2017 where he met with European Parliamentarians representing the major political groups.
In Strasbourg State Minister Senanayake attended a luncheon meeting with the Friends of Sri Lanka Group in the European Parliament. During the meeting, the Chair of the Group Mr. Geoffrey Van Orden, MEP announced the Group’s intention to visit Sri Lanka next year. State Minister Senanayake also met with the Chair of the South Asia Group Ms. Jean Lambert, MEP, who discussed the outcome of their recent visit to Sri Lanka.
State Minister Senanayake visited the headquarters of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 14th December 2017 and met with Ms. Gabriella Battaini – Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe. They discussed several areas in which Sri Lanka is interested in further strengthening bilateral cooperation. Sri Lanka having acceded to the European Convention on Cyber Crimes (Budapest Convention) in 2015, discussion focused on obtaining technical assistance from the Council of Europe in relation to implementation.
During the visit to Luxembourg on 15th December, State Minister Senanayake called on Romain Schneider, M.P., Minister of Social Security, Development Cooperation, Humanitarian Affairs and Sports of Luxembourg. The discussion centered on prospects for technical assistance for training in several sectors whilst noting the generous assistance that Luxembourg had provided to Sri Lanka over the years.
State Minister also met with Mars Di Bartolomeo, M.P., President of the Chamber of Deputies (Speaker of the Luxembourg Parliament) and discussed prospects for strengthening cooperation between the two Parliaments and the setting up of friendship groups. The State Minister also participated in a well-attended luncheon meeting hosted by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce at which he had the opportunity to discuss and inform prospects for stronger connectivity between Luxembourg and Sri Lanka in the areas of trade and investment. It was noted that Luxembourg is a logistics hub of Europe and also a centre of financial services and that Sri Lanka could benefit immensely from stronger ties. State Minister also informed that a business delegation from Sri Lanka would visit Luxembourg early next year. The visit to Luxembourg concluded with a dinner meeting with the Sri Lankan community hosted by the Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Luxembourg.
During the visit to Belgium on 18th December, State Minister Senanayake held discussions with Pieter De Crem, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. The two Ministers discussed prospects for further strengthening trade and increasing investment. De Crem visited Sri Lanka last year and renewed bilateral ties especially strengthened following the visit of Prime Minister to Brussels last year. State Minister Senanayake also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on annual bilateral consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of Belgium and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.
State Minister Senanayake attended a luncheon meeting hosted by the Belgium – Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group where the forthcoming visit of a delegation from the Friendship Group to Sri Lanka was discussed. The State Minister also called on Siegfried Bracke, President of the Chamber of Representatives of the Belgium Federal Parliament (Speaker of the Federal Parliament).
Later the same afternoon, State Minister Senanayake delivered the keynote address at a seminar on “Sri Lanka – New Economic Opportunities and New Vision” hosted by European Institute of Asian Studies (EIAS) in Brussels. State Minister referred extensively to the Vision 2025 Policy Document of the Government and outlined the prospects for potential European Investors. Whilst noting that the EU was Sri Lanka’s single largest trading partner, he observed that GSP+ facility granted in May 2017 provided a huge opportunity for Sri Lankan exporters to have duty free access to the European market. He also referred to the strong and vibrant cooperation between Sri Lanka and the European Union and Government’s commitment to fulfill its international obligations.
State Minister Senanayake also visited Antwerp, where he attended a business dinner hosted by Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Antwerp. He was accompanied to the meetings by Ambassador to Belgium Rodney Perera and Embassy officials.