Thein Sein Talks Sanctions and Trade in Vienna

Burma’s President Thein Sein at a press conference with the Austrian President Heinz Fischer. (Photo: Stephanie Strobl/HBF)

HONG KONG—President Thein Sein called for an end to European Union sanctions against Burma and welcomed investors to his nation during a two-day visit to Austria, which ended on Monday.

Fighting with the Kachin Independence Army had ceased, he said at a press conference with the Austrian President Heinz Fischer, adding that he could accept additions to the 2008 constitution to appease ethnic conflicts that have been ravaging the country for half a century.

Thein Sein met with the Austrian president as well as the Chancellor Werner Faymann and the Speaker of the Lower House Barbara Prammer on Monday during what has been the first visit of a Burmese President to the central European country.

After the talks, in which he has been pressed on the Kachin conflict and the plight of stateless Rohingya, Thein Sein participated at a business conference organized by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.

A delegation of 40 Austrian companies had met up with Thein Sein in Naypyidaw a month ago, where an invitation to visit Austria had been extended to the president. During the visit, the Austrian turbine manufacturer Andritz opened a representative office in Rangoon. Thein Sein reinforced proof of Burmese interest by visiting two hydropower stations in Austria on Sunday, a day ahead of formal talks.

Bilateral trade with the landlocked European Union member state has been marginal at best and has reached around US$13 million last year, according to the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. The country is, however, a stakeholder in the European Union, where sanctions against the former military regime are still being partially enforced.

Thein Sein’s visit is “about drumming up business and, along the way, presenting a new face of the government of Burma to the Europeans,” said longtime Burma-watcher Sean Turnell at Macquarie University in Sydney. “Europe doesn’t carry much weight politically for Burma, but it remains the home of some vibrant companies. Of course, it’s a lucrative source of tourists too.”

The European Union’s representative to Burma, Andreas List, expected the sanctions to be completely lifted by the end of April, the Austrian daily Wiener Zeitung reported on Monday.

Thein Sein has left Austria for Belgium, where he is expected to hold talks with European Union representatives. Yet, as of Monday, an appointment with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso had not been guaranteed, according to Austrian media reports.

The president will conclude his 10-day trip through Europe in Italy at the end of the week. He has previously visited Norway and Finland.


4 Responses to Thein Sein Talks Sanctions and Trade in Vienna

  1. Fighting with the Kachin Independence Army had ceased, he( thein sein) said at a press conference with the Austrian President Heinz Fischer, adding that he could accept additions to the 2008 constitution to appease ethnic conflicts that have been ravaging the country for half a century.
    It is a good news but “it will come but it will be very long to come” in all Burmese understanding about Bama government’s altitude. Clean the cronies , let the oversea Burmese to come back to country , Burma for investment from thein sein’s promise in US first before begging oversea foreigner’s investment. Keep your ( thein sein ) promise first and do it otherwise nobody will trust you. Thein sein promises for letting oversea Burmese to come back to help the country but there is no more news now. Oversea Burmese have no gun but most have small money and foreigner friends for investment and they can persuade more small and medium size foreign investment. Oversea Burmese are the only important powerful advertising persons for investment for Burma, not notorious military than shwe and his puppets thein sein and min aung laing ( visit, visit, begging and begging). Thein sein should not expect to get big projects and big money from big, big foreign companies very soon because nobody trust your bama military altitudes from now and then ( being not honor Panglong agreement as well as business contracts with China, current raping, killing Kachin for land and resources, poor educational , health sectors, unattractive investment laws, sky rising price of properties and lands and business monopoly and cronies). See your failure of Dawei and Thei-la-wah Thanlyn industrial projects.

  2. I keep hearing the argument from this government that some things are constitutional while other things are not. The idea is that we should be in favour of all the things that were decided by a group of soldiers who have looted the country for 50 years is absurd.

  3. Situation in myanmar is getting better and better since open up. If you plant the trees, it take some take to grow anyway. I do not understand some people impatience mind. A country can’t be change like magic trick. Pls kindly do open your mind, especially who have been living in oversea.

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