European Union's Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore on Tuesday said they wish to see free and fair elections in Bangladesh conducted in a "peaceful and democratic" atmosphere.

Talking to reporters after his meeting with State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Gilmore mentioned the recent visit of an Election Exploratory Mission (ExM) from the EU.

The main objective of the Election Exploratory Mission was to assess the "advisability, usefulness and feasibility" of a possible EU Election Observation Mission for the upcoming parliamentary election.

Gilmore said he and the state minister discussed the need for a healthy environment for civil society, and free and open media in the country.

"My role is to visit countries and talk to governments about the importance of human rights in relation to those countries," he said, adding that they have discussed the importance of human rights as it is at the heart of the relationship.

Responding to a question, State Minister Alam said they have discussed the election issues but have not discussed how to bring in other political parties to the election.

"It is completely up to them (political parties)," he said.

State Minister Alam reiterated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's commitment to holding free and fair elections in Bangladesh.

"Brussels has all the information. They are in a very suitable position to judge," he said, adding that Bangladesh is welcoming foreign observers.

Gilmore said when they look at the elections, they do not just look at the voting day only. Rather, they look at the atmosphere before and after the elections too.

He said they have also discussed the Digital Security Act and are aware of the government's plan to make amendments.

"I think we are entering a new phase of our relationship. We need to look at how we can work together (on all fronts)," Gilmore said.

They also discussed various aspects of the bilateral relation between Bangladesh and the EU and vouched to remain engaged to further strengthen the partnership. They exchanged views on the partnership in trade and economy in light of the enhanced awareness of the business community and the consumers about human rights, labour rights and sustainability.

The EU special representative also held meetings with Law Minister Anisul Haq and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and discussed the "centrality of human rights" to the EU-Bangladesh relationship.

Gilmore is on his second visit to Bangladesh with a wide-ranging agenda. He is visiting at the invitation of the government of Bangladesh.

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