Dhaka, 14 February 2018
Issued on behalf of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia during an official visit to Bangladesh from 12 - 14 February 2018
DHAKA, 14 February 2018 - A delegation of the European Parliament is paying an official visit to Bangladesh from 12 to 14 February 2018. The delegation is composed of the Chair Ms Jean Lambert, Vice-Chair Mr Richard Corbett, Vice-Chair Mr James Nicholson, Mr Wajid Khan, Members of the European Parliament’s Standing Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South Asia. The delegation also includes Mr Sajjad Karim, in his capacity as rapporteur on South Asia in the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee.
The visit of European Parliamentarians (MEPs) was organized in two parts. On Monday 12th February, MEPs visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and gathered first-hand information on the ongoing exodus and refugee crisis. This part of the visit was organized together with a Delegation of the European Parliament’s Sub-committee on Human Rights, led by its Chairman Mr Pier Antonio Panzeri, who travelled onwards to Myanmar. Visiting the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar provided an opportunity to appreciate the commitment and level of assistance provided by the Bangladeshi authorities, the challenges faced by local communities, and the refugees themselves in the face of the oncoming Monsoon season. MEPs reiterated the support of the European Union, while witnessing the humanitarian tragedy of one of the most serious refugee crisis in the world. MEPs underlined the need to protect human dignity and hoped that a sustainable solution would be found that also addresses the root causes. European Parliamentarians are also aware of the funding needs that will be required to address the ongoing crisis, as it unfolds in coming months, and expect the European Union and international community partners to continue its engagement.
During the second part of the visit, MEPs returned to the capital Dhaka for meetings with the Bangladeshi Authorities, mainly with its counterparts in the Jatiya Sanghad, the Bangladesh Parliament, and with representatives of civil society. MEPs appreciated the opportunity to inform themselves on developments in Bangladesh at an important juncture in bilateral relations with the European Union, including the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact that aims at improving the working conditions in the ready-made garment industry, launched after the Rana Plaza tragedy. MEPs also met with the Commerce Secretary, the State Minister for Labour, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, and with the Chief Election Commissioner, ahead of the general elections scheduled in 2019. Last but not least, the European delegation was also received by the BNP leadership.
The delegation of the European Parliament welcomed a number of positive developments in several areas, was encouraged by the reduction of poverty and the overall positive economic development. MEPs also welcomed progress related to the Sustainability Compact, but recalled that a number of relevant issues in that context remain pending, notably in the area of labour rights. MEPs recalled the need to fully align the Labour Act and the EPZ Labour Act with ILO standards, in particular Conventions No. 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining. MEPs noted, furthermore, that the likely graduation to middle income country status will require a transitional process to implement and monitor the required ILO Conventions.
European Parliamentarians regretted, however, the deterioration of the human rights situation over the past few years, and took note of reports on hindrance to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and violence against women. MEPs also recalled that the issue of child marriage remains a serious concern, and that violence against secular writers and bloggers, against members of religious minorities and against LGBTI people must end. The European delegation invited Bangladeshi Authorities to step up efforts as regards these concerns and to facilitate the valuable work of civil society in addressing these issues.
MEPs also hoped that the political environment would become less confrontational and hostile in coming months and urged Bangladeshi Authorities to facilitate the necessary conditions for inclusive, free and fair general elections in 2019.
MEPs recalled that up to EUR 690 million have been earmarked in EU support for Bangladesh in the current Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020 and reiterated their wish to remain engaged and to further support Bangladesh in areas such as human rights, good governance and the environment.
MEPs also hoped that the impressive economic growth of the past years and the encouraging progress in the fight against poverty, which have made Bangladesh an important trading partner of the European Union, will further help achieve the goals to which it has committed, in a more inclusive manner.