Sunday, 3 July, 2022

EU, Bangladesh lay stress on voluntary return of Rohingyas

The European Union and Bangladesh have jointly stressed the need for voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable return of forcibly displaced Rohingyas to Myanmar and the importance of continued delivery of essential assistance, support, and services.

They held 10th Joint Commission in Brussels in a very constructive and open atmosphere, covering a wide range of issues of common interest last week, says a release of Economic Relations Division (ERD).

The Joint Commission was co-chaired by Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing. Director of the External Action Service of the EU, and ERD Secretary Fatima Yasmin.  The EU reiterated its appreciation for the continued generous role and action of the people and Government of Bangladesh for temporarily hosting more than a million Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMNs) – Rohingya — for more than four years.

Bangladesh thanked the EU for its political and humanitarian support to address this humanitarian catastrophe created by Myanmar.  The EU raised the importance of providing perspectives to the largely young population of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas, especially in terms of health, education and livelihoods.

Bangladesh welcomed the additional humanitarian aid announced on 20 May 2022 by the European Union to ensure life-saving support for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and host communities in Bangladesh.

At the meeting, the EU and Bangladesh discussed governance, democracy, rule of law and human rights, the Rohingya crisis, economic and trade cooperation, migration, climate change, education, development cooperation and regional cooperation.

In this context, they looked forward to the first EU-Bangladesh Political Dialogue in Dhaka in June 2022.

The EU commended Bangladesh for its continuing success as the largest beneficiary of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) unilateral preferential trade arrangement. It was recalled that EBA preferences 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 are crucial in this regard.

In this context, the EU welcomed the finalisation and publication of Bangladesh´s National Action Plan on the Labour Sector and stressed the need for its comprehensive implementation as per the stipulated timelines, for regular updates periodically on its implementation and for trying to advance the timelines of revising the labour law applicable in export-processing zones.

Bangladesh reiterated the need for ensuring fair prices, especially in view of the investment being made in safer and greener factories.

In view of Bangladesh’s graduation from least developed country (LDC) status, they agreed on the importance of establishing a predictable and sustainable business climate that will make it easier for trade and investment, removing market access barriers and promoting a sustainable diversification of its economy.

To this end, the EU and Bangladesh remain committed to pursuing and further strengthening the Business Climate Dialogue.

The Joint Commission reviewed political developments on both sides and discussed the situation of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, including the importance of holding free and fair elections.

The EU stressed that a vibrant civil society is an important component of democracy, raised concerns on human rights in Bangladesh, in particular reports of alleged violation of human rights and emphasized the need to ensure accountability for such violations.

The EU also raised concerns regarding the issues of civic space and freedom of expression offline and online, notably in the framework of the Digital Security Act (DSA), noting the importance for legislation and its implementation in this area not to go beyond the stated purpose of fighting digital crime and to be in line with international Human Rights obligations.

The EU stands ready to provide increased cooperation in view of Bangladesh’s next Universal Periodic Review in 2023.

The Bangladesh side stated that the government is committed to guaranteeing human rights of all as enshrined in its constitution and has taken a ‘zero tolerance policy’ against terrorism and violent extremism.

The EU and Bangladesh discussed a range of topics and priorities in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation, with the EU reconfirming its interest to support renewable energy, notably regional hydropower generation, and energy connectivity.

The EU and Bangladesh agreed to hold a climate dialogue in the course of 2022 and discuss a possible Green Partnership.