SW MEP Julie Girling part of historic EP delegation visit to Burma, meets freed democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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SW MEP Julie Girling part of historic EP delegation visit to Burma, meets freed democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi

Wednesday, 29 February 2012
South West MEP Julie Girling is one of 11 MEPs in Burma this week and will today make history by being part of the first official delegation from the European Parliament to meet the Sakharov and Nobel Prize laureate, and famed Burmese democracy and human rights campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms Suu Kyi (wearing green at the centre of the photo below) is one of the best-known prisoners of conscience and has unfortunately spent almost 15 years since 1989 under house arrest because of her efforts to bring democracy to military-ruled Burma.

She was freed from house arrest in November 2010, and last month formally registered her candidacy to contest a Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house) seat in the special parliamentary elections to be held on 1st April 2012.

A delegation of MEPs meet democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma - 29/02/2012 (Photo credit: European Parliament/Flickr)While meeting Ms Suu Kyi today, the delegation, led by German MEP Werner Langen will convey a message from the Parliament’s newly elected president Martin Schulz and invite the laureate to address the European Parliament.

Ms Suu Kyi was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament back in 1990, the same year that her party National League for Democracy won an overwhelming victory in an election later annulled by the military regime. Because she was then under house arrest, she was not able to attend the award ceremony in the European Parliament. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In addition to meeting Ms Suu Kyi, the delegation will visit the newly-elected Burmese parliament to establish formal inter-parliamentary relations, meet the President of Burma Thein Sein as well as various ministers, representatives of civil society, members of the opposition, and also visit an EU-funded project. They will convey a message of support for efforts under way in Burma to consolidate democracy, bring about the rule of law, ensure respect for human rights, and achieve national reconciliation.

Burma has indeed made some very positive reforms in recent months, and many around the world - myself included - hope that this continues in the many months and years to come. Following the landmark visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last November and the decision a matter of weeks ago by European foreign ministers to suspend visa bans on leading Burmese politicians, the visit of an official delegation from the European Parliament represents a further strong sign of encouragement and support for the on-going reform process.

Mrs Girling (seen on the far right of the photo above wearing the pink jacket) has been a member of the Parliament’s delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since arriving in Brussels as an MEP following the elections in 2009.

Confirming her presence on the delegation visit to me via Twitter, her team also revealed that more information about the visit will follow in due course on her official website. I for one very much look forward to learning more.

The 11 MEPs of the visiting delegation are: Werner Langen (EPP, Germany), Robert Goebbels (S&D, Luxembourg), Ivo Belet (EPP, Belgium), Barbara Lochbihler (Greens/EFA, Germany), Francesco Enrico Speroni (EFD, Italy), Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, United Kingdom), Wolf Klinz (ALDE, Germany), Barbara Weiler (S&D, Germany), Julie Girling (ECR; United Kingdom), Csaba Sógor (EPP, Romania), and Marian-Jean Marinescu (EPP, Romania).

Photo credit: European Parliament/Flickr.


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