Recent meeting offers that "restrictive measures" on trade will ease.

The Council of the European Union met in Luxembourg last week to conclude its views on Burma, also known as Myanmar, following changes in the country’s April 1 elections, one of the most promising moments of reform in the country.

The EU has now offered that, as a means to welcome and encourage the reform process in Burma, the council will “suspend restrictive measures imposed on the Government”, with the exception of the arms embargo, which it will retain. This means that Burmese rubies will be less restricted that previous.


However the EU Council says it will “monitor closely” the situation in Burma, and will keep its measures “under constant review”.

The EU said it now wants now to “enter into an active collaboration with Burma as a whole, with a view to assisting the reform process and contributing to economic, political and social development”.

The European Union will work with central and local authorities in Burma to bring peace and stability to ethnic regions and to “open a long-term perspective for their development, as part of national reconciliation”.

It has announced significant new funding for economic and social development, democratic transformation and the strengthening of civil society and the public administration’s capacity at central and regional level, in order to help improve governance and to establish an effective administration in a democratic and inclusive state.

The EU says it also recognises “the vital contribution” that the private sector has to make to the development of Burma and would welcome European companies exploring trade and investment opportunities, such as those involving gemstones.

In the US last week, secretary of state Hilary Clinton said the country would start to ease some of its more rigorous restrictions on Burma, following the April 1 elections in the country.

The Wall Street Journal’s South East Asia offshoot said: “Does this mean Americans will soon be able to start legally buying Myanmar’s world-renowned gems, which are currently blocked by law in the US? It seems unlikely, at least in the short term”.

In 2008 the US movement JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act, banned the stones’ importation to the United States. Penalties include fines of up to $1 million and imprisonment of up to 20 years, despite Burma producing around 90% of the world’s rubies.

While sales to the US and Europe have been restricted, rubies sales in China and Asian countries have thrived in recent years, while the provenance of the stones has remained hard to determine.