State Minister for Regional Co-operation Tharaka Balasuriya delivering the keynote address at the virtual conference; ‘Promoting Sri Lanka’s Interests in the Maritime Domain: Strengthening Cooperation with the European Union’ reiterated that Sri Lanka’s maritime domain is a vital component that can unleash Sri Lanka’s growth potential and achieve the priority areas outlined in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s manifesto ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’.
Addressing the conference, State Minister Balasuriya further stated that in relation to economic and political ties, enhancing cooperation with the European Union is a priority of the government.
Foreign Secretary Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage delivering the introductory remarks underscored the need for a new economic outlook that could help capitalize on ocean resources. Foreign Secretary Colombage also called for a rules-based maritime order that addresses the inequalities and asymmetries that exist between countries, peace and stability in the region and most importantly, maritime-related infrastructure development to achieve Sri Lanka’s ambition of becoming a maritime and logistics hub in the Indian Ocean region.
This Virtual Conference was hosted by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka and the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka. The conference explored strategies that need to be adopted by Sri Lanka to ensure the sustainability of the complex maritime landscape, encompassing ocean-based economy, marine ecosystems and ocean governance.
The conference brought together eminent speakers to discuss opportunities and challenges in the fields of Maritime Trade & Logistics Hubs, Marine Biodiversity & Livelihoods and Maritime Safety & Security in Sri Lanka’s path to sustainable economic development, leveraging its strategic location.
Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka Denis Chaibi delivering the opening remarks stated that countries that foster regional cooperation and integration have a greater chance of convincing the international community that they do not have to choose one power over another. Importance of rule-based ocean governance was cited as a prerequisite for harnessing maritime resources and ensuring maritime safety and security. He emphasized that it is not easy to achieve regional cooperation as it is based on mutual understanding and trust. He assured that the EU is ready to extend its expertise to support Sri Lanka in its sustainable development, including maritime trade and regional cooperation initiatives.
Commenting on Sri Lanka, Director General of Europe and Central Asia, EU & Commonwealth of the Foreign Ministry Dhammika Semasinghe stated that the European Union is an important and longstanding trade and development partner to Sri Lanka and is Sri Lanka’s second-largest trading partner. She further stated that Sri Lanka’s relationship with the EU during the last five to six years has been proactive, dynamic and robust, marked by regular interactions and a greater understanding of the ground realities by both parties.
First Panel on Maritime Trade and Logistics Hub was moderated by Global Chairperson of Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT) Gayani De Alwis which included CEO of South Asia Gateway Terminals (Pvt) Ltd. Romesh David, Founder of SCM PLUS (Pvt) Ltd. Dr. Ruanthi De Silva, former Corporate Director of Supply Chain Management Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement and, CEO/Shippers’ Academy Colombo Rohan Maskorale.
Senior Lecturer of the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries of the Wayamba University Dr. Sevvandi Jayakody moderated the panel on Marine Biodiversity and Livelihoods. The panel included Director of Protected Area Management of the Department of Wildlife Conservation Majula Amararathna, Policy Officer, Directorate General Environment, Biodiversity Unit of the European Commission Juan-Pablo Pertierra, Co-Founder and Director, Blue Resource Trust Daniel Fernando and Chairperson of Environmental Foundation Ltd. and Director of Wetland and Wildlife, WWF Hong Kong Dr. Eric Wikramanayake.
The third panel on Maritime Safety and Security was moderated by Foreign Secretary Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage. Panel included Director General/Operations and Chief Hydrographer of the Sri Lanka Navy and the Joint Chief Hydrographer to the Government of Sri Lanka Rear Admiral Y.N. Jayarathna, Head of the Global Maritime Crime Programme, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Alan Cole Deputy Commander of the EU Naval Force Rear Admiral Corrado Campana, Team Leader, EU Programme, Critical Maritime Routes Indian Ocean (CRIMARIO) Colonel (Rtd.) Martin Cauchi Inglott, and Director General of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change of the Foreign Ministry Ms. Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake.
Director General Dissanayake made Concluding remarks summing up the three panels and the vote of thanks was delivered by Director General of the State Ministry of Regional Co-operation Savitri Panabokke.
The virtual conference was attended by over 100 participants, including diplomats, scholars, government officials, members of the private sector and civil society organizations.