Bildt presses for tough line on Burma

Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt is to press for tough sanctions against Burma when EU foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg on Monday.

The ministers are discussing proposals from the Portuguese presidency of the EU to ban imports of gemstones, timber and metals from Burma following a crackdown on anti-government protestors by the country’s military dictatorship.

The EU ministers are also expected to freeze the assets of junta members and ban investments and visas.

But Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on Monday that the so-called ‘smart sanctions’ on the table were insufficient.

“Smart sanctions should at least be smart. What’s now on the table covers barely more than one percent of Burma’s foreign trade and will hardly affect the regime’s cash flow or the heart of the regime,” he wrote on his blog.

“We should be able to perform a little better.”

Bildt’s spokeswoman Sara Malmgren told The Local that Sweden’s line at the meeting would be “more ambitious” than that being demanded by other EU leaders.

Germany, which has a military base in the country, is being seen as the greatest obstacle to a tougher line on Burma.

France had previously been the biggest opponent of a hard line. The country’s Total Oil is the biggest European investor in the country. But now even France has said it would support a ban on new investment.

The UK, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark have argued for tougher policies against the Burmese junta. Austria, Italy, Spain and Poland are considered to be broadly opposed to a harder line.