EU opens door to investment in Burma Oil & Gas
The European Union's Council of Foreign Ministers announced today that most EU sanctions against Burma will be suspended while it assesses the country's progress towards democracy. The suspension is expected to take effect later this week. The suspended sanctions include visa restrictions and asset freezes targeting key officials, a ban on exports of gems, timber and metals and a ban on investment that could benefit any targeted individual or industry. An embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression will remain in place.
Officials announced today that the sanctions will be suspended for a year, with the possibility of a review in six months. The sanctions target more than 800 companies and nearly 500 people, and include the suspension of some development aid.
The decision follows widely praised reforms in Burma and recent elections in which resulted in the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.
EU sanctions against Burma did not specifically target the Oil & Gas industry. Nevertheless, many Western companies shied away from participation in last year's exploration round, leaving the way clear for Indian, Thai and Malaysian companies to invest. American firms were excluded from bidding because of US sanctions. Burma is now preparing to hold a new international licensing round that will comprise open onshore blocks and will be held after the award of outstanding blocks from the last round.
The easing of sanctions against Burma will be welcomed by Western Oil and Gas companies. However the temporary nature of the changes will leave many operators in a precarious position, uncertain whether to invest significant sums in case sanctions are tightened again in 12 months.
For further information please contact Tony Lewis, Partner, or Alexandra Underwood, Senior Associate.
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