Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh Ambassador Rensje Teerink has said the Rohingya issue will not disappear from the agenda until a lasting solution is found even though the world is now facing challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic and a situation in Afghanistan.
“I don’t have the magic recipe nor do I have the crystal ball to see how this situation will evolve. But I can make sure that it (Rohingya issue) will not disappear from the agenda,” said the outgoing EU Ambassador, noting that the issue is something really close to her heart personally having seen and visited the Rohingya camps many times.
Recognizing a lot of focus on Afghanistan, Ambassador Teerink said that does not mean that the Rohingya issue should disappear. “I will keep on following this.”
The EU envoy made the remarks while responding to a question at a virtual dialogue titled “Bangladesh-European Union Relations: Prognosis for the Future” premiered on Thursday where she delivered the keynote speech.
Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, hosted the dialogue as part of its ongoing Ambassador’s Lecture Series.
The opening remarks were delivered by Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan. The session was chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, renowned scholar-diplomat and former Advisor on Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Caretaker Government.
Distinguished Fellow at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, former BGMEA President and Mohammadi Group Chairperson Dr Rubana Huq, founder Chairman of Policy Research Institute (CRI) Dr Zaidi Sattar and Professor at International Relations Department of Dhaka University Imtiaz Ahmed and Honorary Advisor Emeritus, Cosmos Foundation Ambassador (Retd) Tariq A Karim comprised the panel of discussants.
Enayetullah Khan raised the issues like growing US-China conflict, Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and crisis in Afghanistan; and said it seems that the Rohingya refugee issue is almost fading away from people’s minds.
Terming the Rohingya issue a very “complex and complicated” one, he said without cooperation from the three important countries – India, China and Japan – he does not think the Rohingya issue can be resolved.
Khan wanted to know from the EU Ambassador what the EU can do to help Bangladesh resolve this problem created by Myanmar.
In reply, Ambassador Teerink said first of all a political solution of course needs to be found in Myanmar itself, but it is very tragic to see that a coup happened in Myanmar on February 1 making it difficult to reach out to Myanmar. “It is really an enormous setback. That is the reality we need to face.”
Looking at the reality of the dynamics at the UN Security Council, the Ambassador said they have unfortunately seen the situation there and it has not been very positive.
She recognized that Bangladesh is reaching out to India, China and Japan to continue discussions with those countries as their partners. “It is always on the agenda.”
The EU has also been providing significant funding for lifesaving assistance to Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh's Cox’s Bazar district through international NGOs and the UN.
The 25 August 2021 marked the fourth anniversary of the mass fleeing of over 740,000 Rohingya from Myanmar, following major outbreaks of violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Over 1.1 million Rohingya refugees currently live in Cox's Bazar district and Bhasan Char; and over 150,000 in other countries of the region.
Decoupling the Rohingya issue from economic interests,
Prof Imtiaz said there are two things -- pandemic and Rohingya -- that are now major concerns for Bangladesh, and these two central things are involved with the political economy of Bangladesh.