(KPL) The 8th meeting of the EU-Lao PDR Joint Committee was held in Vientiane on February 17, 2017.
Co-chaired by Mr Khouanta Phalivong, Director-General for Europe and America, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ambassador David Daly, Head of the Division for South and Southeast Asia, European External Action Service, the Joint Committee was preceded on 16 Feb by the 7th Laos – EU Human Rights Dialogue, which ran back-to-back with the Working Group on Cooperation as well as the Working Group on Trade and Investment.
All of the discussions held over the two days provided for fruitful exchanges with important contributions coming from both sides.
The Lao PDR and the EU held open and constructive discussions on a broad range of political, economic and social issues including governance, human rights, development cooperation, and environmental, trade and investment policies.
In the Human Rights Dialogue, discussions of Lao PDR's commitments under the UN Universal Periodic Review process took centre stage.
The Working Group on Trade reviewed EU-Laos bilateral trade and the investment climate in Laos.
The two parties discussed the state of play of Laos' implementation of the World Trade Organisation and addressed a number of other bilateral issues in relation to Lao's uptake of the Everything But Arms Initiative and investment climate for European companies in Laos.
The Lao PDR and EU presented their respective trade strategies. Furthermore, the parties reviewed several regional and multilateral matters.
The Working Group on Development discussed current and future mechanisms to support the development of Laos' private sector, regional and international integration and trade related technical assistance. Useful exchanges were also held about Lao PDR's progress made on MDGs as well as on the National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP) and its alignment to the SDGs.
In addition, the importance of the contribution of civil society was central to the discussions over the two days.
The European development partners have decided together with the Government of Laos on how to deliver aid more effectively by adopting a process of division of labour while ensuring close alignment with the NSEDP of Lao PDR.
The EU has decided to focus on three areas - nutrition, education and governance for the period 2016-2020.
In total, the EU will allocate some 207 million Euros for the period of 2014-2020. At the margins of the Joint Committee, a media event was held to mark the signature of an important support package (totalling 60.5 million Euros) to assist Laos' efforts in the nutrition, governance and UXO sectors.
Human rights and governance were discussed in a frank and open atmosphere, with exchanges of views on a wide variety of issues. These ranged from the ratification status of international conventions to the rights of vulnerable groups, including land and labour rights, and respect for fundamental freedoms. Several individual cases of persons who have been detained or have disappeared were discussed.
Regarding further potential areas for cooperation, regional matters were discussed with a focus on the successful Lao PDR 2016 ASEAN chairmanship. The EU stands ready to share its experience in regional integration, in areas such as sound water diplomacy in the Mekong River Basin and security matters.
Environmental concerns were also high on the agenda since the Lao Government recently ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and made strong commitments to counter illegal wildlife and timber trading.
Both sides were particularly pleased to acknowledge that a first round of FLEGT/VPA negotiations would take place in the first half of 2017.