The Friends of Sri Lanka Group in the European Parliament was re-launched at the Sri Lanka Residence in Brussels on October 25.
The Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the European Union, Grace Asirwatham, announced the appointment of Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Tomáš Zdechovský from the Czech Republic, who represents the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest party in the European Parliament, as the Chair of the Friends of Sri Lanka Group and Maximilian Krah, a German MEP from the Identity and Democracy (ID) party, as the Vice-Chair of the Group. MEP Zdechovský is a member of the Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia (DSAS) in the European Parliament, while MEP Maximilian Krah is the Standing Rapporteur for South Asia in the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA).
The new Friends of Sri Lanka Group is formed with twenty-two MEPs from Belgium, Germany, France, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Hungary, and Slovenia belonging to various political parties such as the European People’s Party (EPP), Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Renew Europe (Renew), Identity and Democracy (ID), European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), and European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL).
During the event, Ambassador Asirwatham briefed the Friends of Sri Lanka Group on the current political and economic situation in Sri Lanka and the status of EU-Sri Lanka relations.
The newly appointed Chairperson MEP Zdechovský and Vice Chairperson MEP Krah also shared their views on promoting relations between Sri Lanka and the European Parliament and assured to make the group vibrant in terms of interaction and engagement with Sri Lanka.
The Friends of Sri Lanka Group in the European Parliament was formed in 2006 with the help of the members of the ECR party from the UK in the European Parliament. It is an informal group of MEPs who support Sri Lanka in the EU Parliament on an issue basis.
The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Brussels last re-launched the Friends of Sri Lanka Group in the newly elected European Parliament in July 2019 in Strasbourg. However, following Brexit, the group became defunct as the UK MEPs who were in the majority of the group left the EU Parliament. Former UK MEP Geoffrey Van Orden served as the Chair of the group from its inception until BREXIT in January 2020. The re-launch of the group was delayed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.