The European Union-Bhutan cooperation started with a development project in 1982 focusing on renewable natural resource. In 1985, diplomatic relations between the Royal Government of Bhutan and EU were established. This relationship was further cemented in 2004, when the EU and Bhutan held their first biennial consultation, covering all aspects of bilateral relations, regional and international developments, as well as discussions on subjects of mutual interest.
The 8th Biennial consultation took place on 5 November, 2019 in Paro. During the consultations, the two sides exchanged views on a wide array of topics and agreed that EU-Bhutan relations have gained political momentum with several meetings held at the highest levels in recent years.
EU relations with Bhutan are grounded on a longstanding and robust friendship. We work together to safeguard women and children's rights, promote gender equality, good governance and democratic values, combating climate change, reducing poverty and fostering cooperation with civil society organisations.
The EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to India , based in New Delhi is concurrently accredited to Bhutan. Bhutan has an Embassy in Brussels, accredited to the EU and to several EU Member States. Regular visits of the EU Ambassador to Bhutan, often jointly with Ambassadors of EU Member States, provide opportunities for in-depth discussions to further strengthen the EU-Bhutan partnership.
In 2015, the closing year for the Millenium Development Goals, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Mr Tshering Tobgay, was the first ever Bhutanese Head of Government to visit Brussels. In June 2019, the newly elected Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering also visited Brussels. At the invitation of the President of the then European Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, the dignitaries participated at European Development Days (EDDs) in 2015 and 2019 respectively.
The successful September/ October 2018 elections (third since 2008) confirmed the country's peaceful transition from absolute monarchy to democracy. During the 2018 vote the EU steered a 'DiploWatch' mission of 11 countries in a visitors' programme arranged by the Bhutanese Election Commission, witnessing the polls in 7 districts.
Robust EU-Bhutan relations are also reflected in Parliamentary ties. In October 2017, a Parliamentary delegation led by the Bhutanese Speaker of the National Assembly visited Brussels followed by a visit of the EP to Thimphu in May 2019, led by the chair of the European Parliament Delegation for South Asia. In addition, through an EU Global Project to strengthen the capacity of Parliaments called 'Parliaments in Partnership', the Bhutanese National Assembly and the National Council of Bhutan are developing links with EU Member State Parliaments. Parliaments currently engaged in the project with Bhutan include those from Hungary, Greece and Denmark.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is expected to graduate from the Least Developed Country group in a not too distant future. The EU is committed to continue its support to Bhutan during the transition and beyond the country's graduation. In this context, new and innovative tools will be developed for the financing of development activities, adopted to the evolving circumstances.
Further, the Royal Government of Bhutan and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are working towards a possible Framework Agreement, which once ratified by the Parliament of Bhutan, would enable the EIB to provide sustainable finance for physical and social infrastructure, at the request of the Bhutanese government and relevant private sector counterparts.