France and Sri Lanka

Political relations

The French and Sri Lankan authorities hold regular dialogue on political and economic issues.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraweera,visited Paris in June 2016 and met with his counterpart and the Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, as well as with the Minister of State for Development and Francophonie.

Martine Pinville, Minister of State for Commerce, Small-Scale Industry, Consumer Affairs and the Social and Solidarity Economy, visited Colombo in November 2016 and met with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Tourism Development.

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Economic relations

Bilateral trade stood at €375.1 million in 2016, decreasing from 2015, a year in which France posted a record trade surplus due to the delivery of three Airbus A330-300 aircraft to Srilanka Airlines. The European Commission’s embargo on Sri Lankan fishery products, which was imposed in January 2015, was lifted in June 2017. Therefore a large increase in imports is expected. Textiles remain France’s leading import sector from Sri Lanka, accounting for 61.4% of total imports.

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Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France is closely cooperating with Sri Lanka on development projects, focusing in particular on rebuilding infrastructure in regions hit by civil war. In 2005, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) pledged €89 million to help rebuild infrastructure damaged by the tsunami in December 2004. Since 2010, the AFD has been working in Sri Lanka with a mandate to promote green and inclusive growth in the sectors of water and sanitation, energy and urban development. These commitments total €360 million.

Four Alliances Françaises located on the island in Kotte (a suburb of Colombo), Kandy (in the centre), Matara/Galle (in the south) and Jaffna (in the north) are special partners in running the major annual French cultural events: Fête de la Francophonie and Printemps français.

After English, French is the most widely-taught European language in Sri Lankan secondary schools, with 150 teachers and 11,000 students.

Relations with the European Union

Relations between Sri Lanka and the European Union are governed under the third-generation partnership and development agreement (with a human rights stipulation), which entered into force on 1 April 1995. The joint EU-Sri Lanka Commission, whose meetings had been suspended since 2008, met in December 2013. An agreement on the readmission of Sri Lankan nationals residing without authorization was signed in April 2004. The first joint EU-Sri Lankan readmission committee met in February 2013 in Colombo.

In 2017, Colombo was reinstated in the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance of the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+) which grants trade preferences to countries undertaking to comply with 27 international agreements concerning human rights in particular. This was possible because of progress noted in the situation of human rights and the Government’s efforts to implement the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council of 1 October 2015 on war crimes. The EU is keeping a close watch on the implementation of other measures (national reconciliation, ad hoc tribunal to try perpetrators of war crimes) so that Sri Lanka can stay in this system.

On 19 July 2016 in Brussels, the 20th meeting of the joint EU-Sri Lankan committee was held. A series of measures in various areas of common interest were adopted including regarding fishing, education, humanitarian assistance, and respecting human rights.

Updated: 06.07.2017