We are opening a new chapter in our relationship, says Mora
The launching of the "Political Dialogue" marks a widening of cooperation between Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) into strategic and thematic areas of mutual interest and is a landmark in Bangladesh-EU partnership which will complete 50 years in 2023.
Bangladesh and the EU) expressed willingness to sign a "partnership cooperation" agreement to elevate" the relations to next level.
However, it is still at an initial stage as it requires extensive discussions and negotiations.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam together with Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora conveyed two sides' willingness regarding such a mechanism on November 24, 2022.
In view of the increasing importance of EU-Bangladesh relations, including in the international domain, the EU proposed to initiate discussions towards concluding a Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Bangladesh.
The PCA will enhance the dialogue between both sides on issues of global concern and give more scope for mutually-beneficial cooperation in a wide range of policy and strategic areas.
The PCA will give Bangladesh-EU relations a new legal foundation, which is more comprehensive and up-to-date and will respond better to current and evolving challenges.
The Bangladesh side thanked the EU for the proposal and expressed readiness to engage in discussions towards concluding a PCA.
"We're not signing any agreement today. We are trying to get deeper into the issues. We can't give you any timeframe for signing the partnership cooperation agreement," Alam said while responding to a question.
He, however, said the relations need to be taken to a newer height which means taking the relationship to a level of partnership.
Mora said such an agreement will provide a legal framework for cooperation in every single area including climate change, connectivity, digital sphere, security and defence.
He said Bangladesh's "spectacular growth and achievements" allowed them to go for a broader cooperation with Bangladesh.
Mora noted the impressive growth of Bangladesh over the last one decade and said the launching of political dialogue between the two sides is a very good beginning for the next stage of cooperation.
"We are opening a new chapter in our relationship. It is important for us to work with our partners together," he said, adding that this is the recognition of the impressive achievements of Bangladesh.
The two sides met for the first time in such high level political dialogue for providing strategic guidance and intensifying foreign and security policy cooperation.
Issues of shared interest such as peacebuilding, conflict prevention, Indo-Pacific, Ukraine issue, connectivity, climate change, trade, security and counter-terrorism were discussed at the dialogue. Issues related to the Rohingya crisis were also discussed both on security and humanitarian perspectives.
The EU side highlighted their efforts to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis as Bangladesh seeks safe and quick repatriation of the Rohingyas to their homeland.
State Minister Alam said the EU signed similar agreements (partnership cooperation agreement) with the major Asean economies.
He said they discussed overall security issues and cooperation in the region including conventional and nonconventional security issues, cyber security and transnational organised crimes.
In October 2021, the two sides agreed to launch the political dialogue when Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen met the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels.
The EU acknowledged Bangladesh's growth momentum and new confidence as a nation and looked forward to engaging further with Bangladesh on issues of shared interest, including through focus on the Indo-Pacific.
Inclusive, secure, rules-based Indo-Pacific
Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) have emphasised their commitment to a "free, open, inclusive, peaceful, secure and rules-based" Indo-Pacific region with shared prosperity for all.
The EU's Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific was discussed at the first political dialogue held in Dhaka on Thursday night and both sides agreed to advance cooperation in the areas of shared priority.
Bangladesh sought EU's support for continued trade preferences under the EU's new Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) beyond 2029 in order to make its LDC graduation smooth and sustainable.
The EU appreciated the transformative socio-economic development of Bangladesh and the country's inherent resilience in the face of multi-dimensional challenges.
The EU also commended Bangladesh for its continuing success as the largest beneficiary of the EU's Everything but Arms (EBA) preferential trade scheme.
In this context, the EU stressed the need for comprehensive implementation of the National Action Plan on the labour sector of Bangladesh as per the stipulated timelines.
Bangladesh underscored its time-bound commitment to ensuring labour rights and workplace safety and also reiterated, among others, the need for ensuring fair pricing and shared responsibility for elements of compliance, especially in view of the investments being made in the country in safer and greener factories.
During the dialogue, both sides held comprehensive discussions on a wide range of areas of cooperation, while highlighting the shared values of democracy, fundamental freedoms, rule of law, inclusiveness and respect for human rights.
Both sides agreed to step up cooperation on climate action, digital transformation, connectivity, traditional and non-traditional areas of security and agreed that the newly launched political dialogue would be held every year, alternately between Dhaka and Brussels, to provide strategic guidance and intensify foreign and security policy cooperation.
The two sides exchanged views on countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism.
Bangladesh side reaffirmed the government's policy of 'zero tolerance' against all forms and manifestations of terrorism. Both sides reiterated their common position for adhering to the relevant human rights and humanitarian principles in counter-terrorism efforts.
The two sides also discussed the need for deepening cooperation in combating transnational organised crimes, including migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and money laundering.
Sharing of best practices in this regard, in line with domestic and international laws and obligations, was emphasized upon.
Both parties underscored that every effort must be made to end the war in Ukraine and emphasised in this context the importance of upholding international law and the UN Charter.
The two sides expressed deep concern at the human cost of the war and its impact on the global economy. In the backdrop of the volatile global economic situation, both sides highlighted and prioritized the necessity of enhancing cooperation on food and energy security.
In this regard, the role of the UN Global Crisis Response Group (GCRG) on Food, Energy and Finance was flagged, in which the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is one of the six eminent world leaders serving as GCRG champions.
The Bangladesh side reaffirmed its interest in broadening cooperation with the concerned EU member states in food production, storage and processing.
The two sides exchanged views on their respective efforts to further diversify energy sources. Bangladesh sought the EU's attention to the country's need for huge investments on widening renewable energy coverage, including hydropower generation in the region.
Progress towards delivering EU support for the renewable energy sector in Bangladesh in line with the "green transition" priority in the multi-annual indicative programme was noted in this context.
Bangladesh-EU Climate Dialogue Planned
With regard to climate change, both sides stressed the importance of achieving the commitments under the Paris Agreement.
In particular, they underscored strengthening climate change mitigation as well as adaptation and providing means of implementation, including finance and technology, particularly in view of the renewed pledges under the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan of COP27.
Bangladesh commended the EU's commitments towards climate action, and particularly for facilitating a breakthrough in COP27 on the critical issue of loss and damage.
Both sides agreed to launch the Bangladesh-EU Climate Dialogue at the earliest. Both sides also acknowledged the need for international dialogue and action on addressing the issue of human mobility in the context of climate change.
The EU welcomed Bangladesh's decision to join the Global Methane Pledge and the two sides acknowledged the need for meaningful international support for addressing any otherwise impact on agricultural and livestock production.
Bangladesh invited the EU to extend its support to investment in environment-friendly technologies for climate-smart infrastructures, resilient supply chains, improved water management, coastal embankments and industrial pollution control.
Both sides underlined the importance of regular Business Climate Dialogue towards addressing outstanding trade and investment related issues.
The Bangladesh side also sought the EU's special attention to harness the benefits of Blue Economy and to enhance capability of marine law enforcing agencies to better address Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Connectivity, including regional and sub-regional connectivity, digital connectivity, cyber security, direct shipping links and logistics, people-to-people contacts (including education, research and innovation) and the important role of the Erasmus+ programme was discussed.
Bangladesh stated its aspiration to become a regional connectivity hub and, in this regard, invited the EU to actively engage with Bangladesh including under its Global Gateway initiative.
Bangladesh signalled its readiness to engage with the EU on digital security and data protection, and highlighted the pressing need for global norms setting for promoting responsible behaviour in cyberspace.
Both sides underlined the importance of effective and inclusive rules-based multilateralism for tackling current and future global challenges, with the UN at its core, and for ensuring a stable trading environment with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at its centre.
Both sides agreed to foster new synergies for jointly contributing to a safer, greener, cleaner, more digital, resilient and stable world, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
During his visit to Bangladesh, Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora called on Major General (retd.) Tarique Ahmed Siddique, Security Adviser to the Prime Minister, and Ambassador Mohammad Ziauddin, Ambassador-at-Large at the Prime Minister's Office.
Both sides agreed that the second Bangladesh-EU political dialogue will take place in Brussels in 2023 at a mutually convenient date.
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