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Relations with France and the European Union

Relations with France

Since the 1990 elections, France has called for the resumption of a political process to enable national reconciliation and the establishment of democracy through dialogue. Since 2011, Myanmar has been going through political transition, initiated by President Thein Sein. The general elections of 8 November 2015 were carried out successfully and led to a clear victory by the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. Aung San Suu Kyi holds the combined offices of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of the President’s Office and State Counsellor, a position created specifically for her. France wants to support the democratic transition led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government so that it can be strengthened and sustained. In light of the Rohingya tragedy, France, along with its partners, continues to ensure that the United Nations remains aware of the human rights situation in Myanmar, while maintaining its dialogue with the Myanmar authorities on the issue. From a humanitarian standpoint, France, after granting €4.1 million in 2017, provided over €3.2 million in assistance in early 2018, through food aid and supporting the work done by several NGOs and by the High Commissioner for Refugees to help the Rohingya populations in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

On 26 April, the Council of the EU extended and strengthened the embargo on arms and adopted a legal framework to set up targeted restrictive measures against Myanmar military leaders.

Trade between France and Myanmar has increased significantly since 2012: French exports to Myanmar rose from €19 million in 2012 to €129 million in 2017 and imports from €66.1 million to €224 million. France is the 12th largest investor in Myanmar, with 0.7% FDI stock. The main French company established in the country is Total, which operates the Yadana offshore gas field. It enables Myanmar to export large volumes of gas to Thailand. The French presence has, however, significantly diversified in recent years, with the construction, urban development and energy sectors still the best represented. It is very important to France that investments resume in accordance with international corporate social and environmental responsibility principles.

Since 2012, the AFD has been helping Myanmar fight poverty: urban development (in Yangon and Mandalay), energy and health are the priority action sectors (€174 million invested over five years in loans or donations, in addition to €43 million in European grants channelled to the AFD).

Supporting Myanmar civil society, including freedom of expression and of the press, is one of our priorities in order to support the country’s transition to democracy. Our commitment was embodied in the creation of the country’s first school of journalism in July 2014, which is now a benchmark; a session of the “Convergences” forum was organized in Myanmar in 2017. A significant part of France’s overall cooperation budget is used to support underprivileged or marginalized people in urban and rural areas, as well as the cultural and linguistic cooperation developed by the Institut français in Myanmar (1,000 students) and the French Centre in Mandalay (almost 300 students). In 2016, together with the Yangon regional government, France organized a street-art festival on an unprecedented scale entitled “Mingalabar!” which attracted almost 200,000 visitors in three days. The Institut français in Myanmar, which during decades of dictatorship was the country’s only space for cultural and artistic freedom, organizes major events (e.g. the “Memory!” International Film Heritage Festival, a photo documentary festival) and introduces the most modern technologies and digital cultures to the Myanmar artistic scene (3D films).

Cultural cooperation has been ongoing for decades on archaeological and paleontological projects, mainly through the work on the ground by the French archaeological mission.

Relations with the European Union

The EU is one of Myanmar’s main partners in terms of official development assistance (with €656 million in bilateral aid for the 2014-2020 period, Myanmar is the second-largest recipient of EU development assistance in Asia). Four priorities have been identified: rural development, education, governance and peace.

Updated: June 2018