Thimphu, 17 October 2019: H.E. Ugo Astuto presented his Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the European Union to Bhutan to His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck at an official ceremony held today.
“It is a great honour for me to represent the European Union in Bhutan, a most valued partner. Over the years, the EU-Bhutan relationship has matured into a comprehensive engagement with active policy dialogue and cooperation on political, social, economic, and environmental issues. My focus as EU Ambassador will be to strengthen these links and support Bhutan in achieving the sustainable development goals, which are a common priority, as well as its graduation to Middle Income Country by 2023" Ambassador Astuto said on the occasion.
The EU and Bhutan have a long history of close cooperation, with the first EU-Bhutan development programme dating back to 1982. High level visits have been taking place regularly, such as that of Hon'ble Prime Minister Lotay Tshering to Brussels during European Development Days in June 2019, where he met Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. The Prime Minister also met President of the European Council, Donald Tusk in the margins of UNGA in New York, last September. Stefano Manservisi, Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, visited Bhutan in January 2019. The 8thbiennial consultations between the EU and Bhutan are expected to be held in Punakha on 5 November 2019.
"Bhutan is in a phase of transition and has undergone massive changes in the past decade. The EU has been a friend and a partner to Bhutan in its efforts towards inclusive and sustainable social and economic development, based on its Gross National Happiness principles. We are keen to continue supporting Bhutan on actions related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, structural transformation tackling rural poverty and reduced rural-urban mobility as well as strengthening private sector involvement, in line with the Kingdom's national priorities" the Ambassador added.
The EU is committed to supporting Bhutan's ambitious development agenda. The EU has quadrupled its financial assistance for the period 2014-2020 over the previous financial cycle from €14 million to €58.3million (4.7 billion Ngultrum) to support the Bhutanese government in moving towards its goal of achieving self-reliance and inclusive socio-economic development. The EU supports capacity development for local governments and fiscal decentralization; sustainable agriculture and forestry and civil society organisations. In addition, the EU supports Bhutan's efforts in climate change adaptation and mitigation, disaster risk reduction, building its trade capacity and fair trade labelling. The core of the EU assistance is provided through direct budget support to the government programmes, according to its priorities. The EU and the Royal Government of Bhutan are currently consulting about future development assistance (2021-2027) in line with Bhutan's 12thDevelopment Plan.
Meetings in Thimphu
Following presentation of his credentials, the newly appointed Ambassador also met with Members of the Government, including the Hon’ble Prime Minister Lyonpo Dr. Lotay Tshering, the Hon'ble Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji, the Hon'ble Minister of Finance, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, Hon'ble Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs, Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen, and the Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture and Forest, Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor. The Ambassador also interacted with the Speaker of the National Assembly of Bhutan, Mr Tshogpon Wangchuk Namgyel and Secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission Mr Thinley Namgyel and other Bhutanese high level officials, parliamentarians, civil society leaders and partners in Bhutan’s development.
About the Ambassador
Ambassador Ugo Astuto concurrently holds the position of EU Ambassador to India.
He entered the Italian Diplomatic Service in 1991. His career in the Italian Foreign Service spans experience in the Embassies in Nairobi and London (including as alternate Director for Italy in the EBRD-European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), in the Permanent Representation in Brussels and in the Embassy in Delhi (2008-2012), where he served as Deputy Head of Mission. From February 2013 until July 2016 he was seconded to the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels, first as Director for South and South East Asia and then as Deputy Managing Director/Director for Asia and the Pacific. From July 2016 to September 2019 he was the Principal Director for Asia in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome.
About the European Union (EU): The EU, which consists of 28 countries, has the world's largest economy and its third largest population, after China and India. Though richly diverse, the countries that make up the EU (its 'Member States') are all committed to the same basic values: peace, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. They have set up common institutions to make decisions on matters of joint interest at European level. By creating a frontier-free single market and a single currency (the euro) which has been adopted by 19 Member States, the EU has given a significant boost to trade and employment. It is also at the forefront of policies on sustainability globally.
EU-Bhutan relations: The EU has had a very strong presence in Bhutan since 1982, in particular through various development cooperation projects throughout the years. It works closely with Bhutan to reduce poverty, but also to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), diversify its economy, private sector development and innovative financing, strengthening the rule of law including accountability for democracy/strengthening democratic institutions; while also contributing to climate change adaptation and strengthen the democratisation process.
More precisely, the EU supports:
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