December 8, 2014 – The European Union announced today it will send nearly €700 million in aid to Myanmar over the next seven years to boost the country’s transition from army-led isolation to international player.

The announcement came after US President Barack Obama added his voice last month to concerns that the transition is backsliding in certain areas, including press freedom and human rights.

The EU said Myanmar will receive €688 million (US$900 million) from 2014 to 2020 to “reinforce support to the country’s multiple transition,” including efforts to promote peace within the country.

Some 14 of 16 major rebel groups have signed ceasefire agreements with the quasi-civilian government as part of reforms in recent years. But deals with the Kachin Independence Army in northern Kachin state and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in the eastern state of Shan have proved elusive.

In a statement, the European Commission, the EU executive arm, said the funds will also help develop rural areas and agriculture, improve food supplies and nutrition, support education as well as improve governance and the rule of law.

“With this support over the next seven years, the EU will build on its ongoing initiatives for the benefit of all people in Myanmar,” the statement added.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma and ruled by the British until 1948, was plunged into isolation by a military regime that seized power in 1962. But in the past three years, its reforms have earned international praise and the removal of most sanctions.

The quasi-civilian leadership, which remains dominated by former generals, has freed most political prisoners, allowed pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her party into parliament and ended draconian media censorship.

But Suu Kyi cannot stand for the top post of president because a clause in the constitution, 59f, bans those with a foreign spouse or children. Her late husband and two sons are British. Obama last month raised concerns about clause 59f, saying “the amendment process needs to reflect inclusion rather than exclusion”.

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