The European Union is urging Sri Lanka not to end its four-decade moratorium on the death penalty, saying capital punishment is not an effective deterrent to counter illicit drugs and related crimes.

Monday's statement from the EU comes a week after Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena announced that dates have been set for the country's first executions in 43 years amid rising alarm over drug-related crimes.

Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses

Authorities have intensified a crackdown on narcotics to deter smugglers from using the Indian Ocean island nation as a transit point for distribution in the region.