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Thimphu, Bhutan, 21 August 2019: The Ambassador of the European Union to Bhutan, H.E. Mr Tomasz Kozlowski, during his farewell visit to Bhutan launched a new project to improve Global Research and Education Network Connectivity from Bhutan to the Trans-Eurasia Information Network, under the umbrella of the Asia Connect project. The initiative, with an overall EU funding of €20 million ensures that 24 Asia-Pacific countries are connected by powerful high-capacity, high quality internet linkages.
The launch took place in an official ceremony on 20th August and was attended by Hon'ble Minister Karma Donnen Wangdi, Ministry of Information & Communications, Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB).
Speaking at the inauguration, Ambassador Kozlowski said, "The EU and Bhutan enjoy a strong bilateral relationship and I am confident that this new project will further enhance our ties. Strengthening our connections between research and education communities will not only improve Bhutanese citizen's access to education and research resources but will also have a long term positive impact on its economy and well-being." Bhutan is one of the beneficiaries of the EU funded Erasmus+ higher education program, providing scholarships for the students.
Meetings in Thimphu
The EU Ambassador met various stakeholders during his visit to Bhutan from 20-22 August. The visit provides an opportunity to reaffirm the on-going close cooperation for Bhutan's sustainable development and to nurture the growing political ties between the two sides.
As a long-term partner, the EU is supporting Bhutan's efforts towards democratic governance, sustainable economic and agricultural development and climate change adaptation, as well as its other national priorities through direct budget financial support.
During the visit, the Ambassador was granted an audience with His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. Ambassador Kozlowski also met Hon'ble Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering, as well as with Members of the Government, including the Hon’ble Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji, the Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture and Forests, Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor, the Hon’ble Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs, Lyonpo Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen and the Hon'ble Secretary for Gross National Happiness Commission, Mr. Thinley Namgyel. Ambassador Kozlowski, moreover, interacted with the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, other Bhutanese high level officials, media and other partners in Bhutan’s development.
EU-Bhutan cooperation spans many sectors and has a long-term perspective
During the visit, the EU Ambassador took stock of the process of implementation of a substantial program of support based on Bhutan's development priorities, which also supports its efforts to prepare for graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status. Projects currently in the pipeline, with a view to agreement in the summer, include disaster management and support to Bhutan's Parliament.
EU development cooperation with Bhutan
The EU is actively supporting Bhutan's ambitious sustainable development agenda. The EU has tripled its financial assistance for the period 2014-2020 over the previous financial cycle from €14 million to €52million (4 billion Ngultrum) to 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 societies. 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 EU assistance is provided through direct budget support to the government programs, according to its priorities. The EU and the Royal Government of Bhutan are already consulting about the post-2020 envelope in line with Bhutan's 12thDevelopment Plan and the possibility of further support after Bhutan's graduation from LDC status in 2023.
Including budget support and different regional and thematic projects, EU's support to Bhutan has reached a level of €68,4million in the years of 2014-2020.
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 as well as a major support to global and regional institutions, and the largest contributor to development cooperation and humanitarian assistance.
The EU has had a very strong cooperation with Bhutan since 1982, in particular through various development projects through the years. It works closely with Bhutan to reduce poverty and diversify the economy, adapt to climate change and strengthen the democratisation process.
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