Political & economic relations

EC-Bangladesh institutional relations date back to 1973 and have developed over the years – as have Bangladesh and the European Community.

Since Bangladesh achieved independence in 1971, its population has grown from about 70 million people to 150 million or more in 20012. Over the same time period, the population of the European Community has expanded as new countries have joined. From six EC Member States in 1971 with a combined population of some 210 million, the European Union (EU) as it is now called has 27 Member States with some 500 million people.

The European Community (EC) established diplomatic relations with Bangladesh in 1973. Some nine years later the European Commission established an office in Dhaka, which was upgraded to a full-fledged Delegation in 1989. Under the EC-Bangladesh Co-operation Agreement of 2001, co-operation now covers trade and economic development, human rights, good governance and the environment.

Today more than half of Bangladesh’s total exports go to the EU (54% in 2011). Bangladesh benefits from the most preferential trade arrangement granted unilaterally by the EU to LDCs, known as the "Everything but Arms" (EBA) scheme. EBA maintains the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for an unlimited period of time, so that it is not subject to periodic renewal as is the case for some other countries. Bangladesh now enjoys a significant trade surplus with the EU, with exports of €8.5 billion in 2011 compared with imports from the EU of €1.7 billion.

The European Union is among the three biggest donors of grant finance to Bangladesh, estimated at €500 million in 2011. The EC is (after the UK) the second largest EU donor to Bangladesh, with €403 million allocated under the Country Strategy Paper (CSP) for 2007-13. The CSP sets out the following priorities for assistance: health, education, good governance and human rights, economic and trade development, disaster management and food security.

The EU is broadly supportive of the Government's reformist agenda, and emphasises the need for it to deliver on its promises and to ensure compliance with Bangladesh’s human rights obligations. Political issues raised by the EU include: extrajudicial killings and torture in custody; women’s rights; children’s rights (including in particular child labour, especially in dangerous environments such as ship-breaking yards); minority rights, in particular those of the hill tribes in the Chittagong Hill Tracts; rights of refugees, especially Rohingyas; and reinforcement of the independent judiciary and of bodies which assure democratic checks and balances.