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19 October, 2018 12:30:46 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 19 October, 2018 09:00:19 AM

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Ties evolve from donor recipient to partner

EU ambassador tells The Independent
HUMAYUN KABIR BHUIYAN
Ties evolve from donor 
recipient to partner

The ties between Bangladesh and the European Union have evolved in the past 20 years from a donor-recipient to a partner, said European Union ambassador in Dhaka Rensje Teerink, adding that not all people realise that Bangladesh is an important and big country. Bangladesh is at the forefront of many socioeconomic sectors not only in South Asia but also in the entire world, she said.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent recently at her office, she also said that over the years, Bangladesh-EU relationship has evolved to partnership, which will further grow in the future.

About the upcoming national election, the envoy said that the world is watching and that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assured her of a transparent and inclusive poll process. Referring to her maiden meeting with Hasina in the first week of July, the EU ambassador said, “I have spoken about

election with the honourable prime minister not very long ago. We had a long discussion. We also very openly discussed the upcoming election. EU looks at this with very big interest and there is an open mind.”

“We hope that elections are inclusive, transparent that everybody should have the right to vote. (None) should not be prevented from voting and the process should be transparent. No doubt Bangladesh has the capacity to do that. You have done it many times. This is something we expect of a democracy,” she said.

When asked about the reply of the prime minister, Teerink said, “I think she said that of course this is something Bangladesh endeavours to do as well. Her answer was very clear. In fact it was made headline because she assured me of transparent and inclusive process. That is what she has clearly stated and I think that was a good outcome of the meeting we had.”

She also said, “What is in Bangladesh’s interest is stability and of course the people can have a say and vote for the person or the party they prefer. And, that is of course the democratic process. Same is here as in other countries. This is what we would expect.

“So, I am very interested to see this happening. The world is watching because Bangladesh is a so important country. It’s a big country. Not all people realise this.”

The envoy also said that like in all countries, there is room for improvement in regards to human rights, good governance, freedom of expression and freedom of media.

“We discuss about them. The EU stands by the universal values of human rights and freedom of speech. We will defend them and speak out when necessary,” she said.

About the current state of Bangladesh-EU ties, the ambassador said, “We have seen a good evolution of our partnership. Twenty years ago our relationship was donor-recipient one. We were helping Bangladesh as an LDC country that had made tremendous progress in social sectors thanks also to the NGOs and certain institutions which were actually pro-poor and had the abilities to deal with poverty alleviation.

“This was the way our relationship was characterised. Of course if you see 20 years down the line for me also Bangladesh is recognised for its economic progress. Enormous strides have been done for poverty alleviation and poverty reduction,” she said.

“I think Bangladesh is at the forefront in many of these sectors in South Asia and example of development in the entire world. I think somebody said if there are certain recipes for poverty reduction that if it can work in Bangladesh it’s a model that can work everywhere,” she added.

The relationship has flourished and it is becoming more political and matured,” Teerink said, adding that EU stood by and will stand by Bangladesh.

Profusely praising Bangladesh for hosting persecuted Rohingya people, she said that EU will continue helping Bangladesh both financially and diplomatically in this regard.

“We need to find solidarity compact to find a best possible way,” she said.

To a question, the envoy of EU, Bangladesh’s largest export destination, said, “No relationship is without problems. We have high expectation of Bangladesh notably in terms of ILO compliance and labour rights. We hope Bangladesh will honour its commitment to do the needful to make the labour and EPZ laws compliant to the ILO.” “We are not there yet. For us this is important. Bangladesh receives Everything But Arms (EBA) privilege. But, it’s not a free lunch. We only give it to the countries where we see labour rights are respected and where HR and governance rights are respected. It cannot be like that we flood the European market with products that are produced under very bad conditions. EBA has to be used according to certain rules. Bangladesh knows this very well. We hope that there will be real progress and trade will continue to help Bangladesh,” she said.

Asked if EBA is safe, Teerink replied, “That is I cannot say because it depends on lot of factors. I think for the moment it is there. It is not something that is taken away like this. It is a very big process that goes before we even talk about taking it away.” “But, we have to see progress. Labour law and EPZ law. That’s my bottom line,” she said.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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