* Office to open as soon as possible
* EU already reviewing sanctions policy
* More progress sought on human rights
By David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS, Jan 5 The European Union will
open a representative office in Myanmar to manage aid programmes
and promote political dialogue, an EU spokesman said on
The move follows the handover of power to a civilian
government in Myanmar last year -- albeit one stuffed with
former military men and backed by the army -- and a series of
political and economic reforms since then.
Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton, said an agreement to open the office in Yangon
had been reached with the Myanmar government. It would not be a
full delegation but would report to the EU ambassador in
Bangkok, capital of neighbouring Thailand.
"It will be responsible for management of aid programmes but
will also have a political role," he said. "We will open it as
soon as it is administratively possible."
Last November, the European Union said it was looking at
whether reforms in Myanmar could justify the bloc further easing
sanctions imposed after bloody military crackdowns on a
It said positive moves by the civilian government since the
elections had exceeded expectations but urged the reclusive
Asian country to release more dissidents -- hundreds of whom
remain in detention.
Mann said the EU was still reviewing its policy and looking
at what help it might be able to provide to Myanmar, including
the possibility of assisting the national Human Rights
"We are now working on setting up an early contact with our
human rights experts here in order to take that forward," he
Sustained political reform in Myanmar could pave the way for
an end to stiff economic sanctions and lead to Western
investment in oil, gas and other sectors to compete with
Myanmar's neighbours, especially India, Thailand and China.
News of the EU plans came as Britain's William Hague was
making the first visit by a foreign minister from the former
colonial power to Myanmar since 1955, before the military
takeover in what was known as Burma in 1962.
Hague welcomed a pledge by Myanmar to continue reforms and
release more political prisoners, saying such progress, if
sustained, would lead to deeper economic and political ties with
His trip follows one late last year by U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, who also promised concrete support if
Myanmar moved faster on political reforms and the release of
Ashton sent her top foreign policy adviser to Myanmar last
year, and the EU, in a move to encourage reform, slightly eased
sanctions in April by ending travel bans and asset freezes on 24
civilian government officials.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Rosalind Russell)