Since the earliest interactions between European institutions and the newly independent nation in 1973, relations between the EU and Bangladesh have been improving for close to 50 years. However, the Political Dialogue in Dhaka on Nov. 24 signaled an expansion of collaboration and prepared the path to establishing an even stronger foundation for the relationship.
A high-level Political Dialogue that will now be held annually, alternating between Brussels and Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka, was convened for the first time in Dhaka. It will offer strategic direction and boost cooperation in foreign and security policy. Its significance to the European Union was demonstrated by the EU’s request to start negotiations on a Partnership Cooperation Agreement with Bangladesh at the inaugural meeting.
It was an acknowledgement of Bangladesh’s socioeconomic transition by the EU. The nation received praise for continuing to be the biggest winner of the EU’s Everything but Arms preferential trade program. Bangladesh asked the EU for help in extending trade benefits through 2029 as it leaves the category of least developed nations.
The EU responded by highlighting the necessity of Bangladesh’s National Action Plan for Labor’s full implementation, which in turn acknowledged its commitment to upholding workers’ rights and workplace safety. Given the investment in safer and more environmentally friendly factories, this would need equitable pricing and shared responsibility for compliance-related features.
Shahriar Alam, the state minister for foreign affairs of Bangladesh, headed the delegation, and Enrique Mora, the deputy director of the European External Action Service, led the team from the EU. Their extensive conversation focused on common ideals such as democracy, fundamental liberties, the rule of law, inclusivity, and respect for human rights.
Beyond the present focus areas of trade, migration, governance, humanitarian assistance, and development cooperation, the Political Dialogue sought to deepen EU-Bangladesh collaboration. On climate action, digital transformation, connectivity, and security, both parties decided to cooperate more closely.
The two sides discussed curbing violent extremism and combating terrorism. Bangladesh reiterated its stance of having zero tolerance for any form of terrorism. Both parties reaffirmed their shared conviction that humanitarian and human rights standards must be upheld in order for counterterrorism measures to be effective.
In order to tackle transnational organized crime, including migrant smuggling, human trafficking, and money laundering, there is a need for more cooperation. A thorough discussion on migration is already under way, and the EU plans to partner with Bangladesh in a Talent Partnership to promote beneficial global labor mobility.
The kindness of the people and administration of Bangladesh toward more than a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar was once again praised by the EU. Bangladesh expressed gratitude to the EU for its political and humanitarian assistance but emphasized the potential risk that the protracted refugee crisis poses to regional security and stability. The international community needed to take more action to set the stage for the Rohingyas’ voluntary, secure, honorable, and sustainable repatriation.
On the necessity of using every effort to put an end to the violence in Ukraine while upholding international law and respecting the UN Charter, Bangladesh and the European Union concurred. Both sides were extremely anxious about the toll that war would take on the world economy.
One of the six distinguished world leaders working as advocates for the UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy, and Finance is Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh is a pioneering country in UN peacekeeping operations and the current head of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. Both parties emphasized the crucial part that women play in conflict prevention and resolution, humanitarian assistance, and post-war reconstruction.
Bangladesh applauded the EU’s dedication to combating climate change and in particular for facilitating the COP27 agreement on the critical issue of a compensation fund for the loss and damage suffered by nations, including Bangladesh, that account for a negligible portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Overall, there were many shared interests that might be discussed, highlighting the importance of the planned Partnership Cooperation Agreement and the Political Dialogue. The UN should be at the center of an effective, inclusive, rules-based multilateralism that is needed to address today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges.
The World Trade Organization is at the center of the stable trading environment, which is something that the EU and Bangladesh place a high value on. In accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, both parties committed to fostering new synergies for collaboratively fostering a safer, greener, more resilient, and stable world.
[Photo by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh]
*Kamal Uddin Mazumder is a Political economy Analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.