Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) have launched the discussions on “key priorities” for the post-2020 cooperation agenda though the joint commission meeting held on Monday in Dhaka.
It also looked into the account the Bangladesh government's incoming 8th 5-year plan from 2021, reports bdnews24.com.
According to a joint statement, both sides agreed on the importance of a regular sectoral policy dialogue to accompany long-term reforms and to reinforce the EU-Bangladesh partnership for development cooperation in particular in the areas of Climate Change, Social Protection, Human Capital and Good governance.
They agreed to continue working jointly towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and within a wider framework, which should include other key international partners and the private sector.
Paola Pampaloni, deputy managing director of the External Action Service of the EU, and Md. Ashadul Islam, senior secretary to Financial Institutions Division of the Ministry of Finance, co-chaired the joint commission meeting which is ninth of its kind.
It was held in line with the commitments undertaken by the EU and Bangladesh under the Co-operation Agreement of 2001.
The joint commission was preceded by the meeting of subgroups: Human Right and Good Governance on Oct 17, Trade and Economic Cooperation, and Development Cooperation on Oct 20.
Both sides discussed a whole range of issues from Rohingya crisis to strengthening economic cooperation.
They focused on jointly identifying opportunities for supporting investment, including on key environment and climate change resilient infrastructure.
They also agreed that the good economic progress and the future graduation from Least Developed Country status should give the opportunity to share the benefit of this progress with the poorer and the most vulnerable part of the population.
On Rohingya issue, the EU recalled its political and financial support to the government and the people of Bangladesh in facing the crisis.
“The EU expressed again its appreciation for the generous and humane role and action of the people and government of Bangladesh and stressed the need for voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingyas to Myanmar,” according to the statement.
Bangladesh expects continued support in this regard.
Both sides expressed commitment to pursue the accountability mechanisms for the crimes committed against the Rohingyas in Myanmar through various multilateral initiatives.
The plan for relocation of Rohingya to Bhashan char was discussed.
The Bangladesh side has reassured the EU of the voluntary nature of the relocation and engagement with the international community.
Both the EU and Bangladesh agreed on the aim to strengthen the economic relationship through increased trade and investment flows, for which it was essential to ensure a predictable and transparent business environment for economic operators.
Bangladesh and the EU concurred that the EU’s preferential trade scheme -Everything But Arms (EBA) under the GSP – granted to Bangladesh has made a direct and significant contribution to Bangladesh’s economic growth and social and economic development.
Exports from Bangladesh to the EU have more than tripled between 2006 and 2018 and the EU is currently the main trading partner of Bangladesh, absorbing half of its overall exports.
The EU mentioned that Bangladesh is the source of more than 62 per cent of all EBA exports to the EU, and hence the largest beneficiary from the EU EBA programme.
Both sides committed to further enhance the regular EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue to address impediments towards more trade and investment from the EU.
In this context, it was recalled that EBA preferences as well as any future trade relationship are conditional on the respect of human rights, including labour rights, as reflected in the international conventions listed in the GSP Regulation.
Sustained reforms of labour rights standards by the government of Bangladesh, and their full alignment with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions on the basis of consensus of tripartite constituents is crucial in this regard.
While good progress has been made on factory safety in the garment sector, many steps are still outstanding in the area of labour rights and the full implementation of the Sustainability Compact is also necessary, they agreed.
The EU stressed that a fully empowered and resilient civil society, in all its diversity, is a crucial component of a democracy.
Both parties agreed to develop a roadmap on some issues strengthening compliance with labour and human rights.
The joint omission reviewed political developments on both sides, and discussed the role of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, including the importance of holding free and fair elections.
But the EU raised concerns about the situation of human rights, in particular reports of ‘extrajudicial killings’, and ‘enforced disappearances’.
The Bangladesh side in response reiterated its ‘zero tolerance’ policy to violations of laws and human rights by the law-enforcing agencies and the government’s commitment and continued efforts to ensure accountability, including through the capacity building of the security agencies.
Digital Security Act
The EU recalled its concerns regarding certain provisions of the Digital Security Act (DSA) and requested ensuring freedom of expression.
The Bangladesh side committed that no provision of the DSA will be used in any way that would limit freedom of expression.
Both sides stressed the importance of ensuring full implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the other UN human rights conventions ratified by Bangladesh, in line with the Constitution of Bangladesh.
It is crucial for stability, economic growth and development to promote and protect the human rights of all, regardless of ethnicity, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious or political affiliation, disability or socio-economic background.
Bangladesh and the European Union welcomed that currently the Development Cooperation of the EU and its Member States with Bangladesh amounts to more than Tk 50 billion (€541 million) per year.
They also discussed the progress on joint commitments in the context of the ‘EU-Bangladesh Standard Operating Procedures for the Identification and Return of Persons without Authorization to Stay’, and agreed to further enhance cooperation in this area.