A delegation of the European Union (EU) arrived in Dhaka on Sunday to have discussions with relevant stakeholders on the country’s labour sector. "Freshly arrived in Dhaka for EU exchanges with Bangladesh stakeholders on labour rights and human rights," EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter after his arrival together with some of the delegation members from Brussels. Bangladesh: UN review on human rights in Geneva on Monday They visited a school for children with disabilities in Badda, Dhaka. "Very glad to be again in Dhaka," said Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service (EEAS) Paola Pampaloni who is leading the delegation. Situation in Gaza classic example of ethnic cleansing assisted by leaders of ‘the free world’ They will have meetings with labour, commerce and foreign secretaries of the government on Wednesday apart from their talks with other relevant stakeholders. The visit is aimed at taking "stock of progress" in implementing the National Action Plan for the labour sector, EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley told UNB. Bangladesh adopted a National Action Plan (2021-2026) on the labour sector and the plan is closely linked to the roadmap submitted by the government of Bangladesh to the ILO Governing Body as the result of an Article 26 complaint. Delhi shared its perspective on Bangladesh with US 'very clearly': Kwatra The roadmap aims to improve the country’s observance of labour rights including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Last month, Ambassador Whiteley said aligning labour law with international standards will be an “essential element” for the European Parliament and the Commission in considering Bangladesh’s application for market access, the GSP+. “Bangladesh has the option to accede to GSP+ which is the next most generous GSP programme after the Everything but Arms (EBA),” he said while speaking at a seminar in Dhaka.
PM’s Brussels visit ‘significant’ at a ‘crucial time’, will take Bangladesh-EU ties to a new height: Momen
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Sunday (October 22, 2023) described Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s upcoming visit to Brussels as “extremely significant” which will help take Bangladesh’s ties with the European Union (EU) to a new height. “This is a very significant visit. This is an achievement for us,” he told reporters, noting that the visit is happening at a “crucial moment.” Asked why it is a crucial time, Momen referred to the upcoming general election of Bangladesh. “We hope the visit will be very successful and fruitful.” The prime minister will be visiting Brussels from October 24-26 at the invitation of European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen. Also read: PM Hasina to attend Global Gateway Forum 2023 in Brussels this month: Momen The foreign minister said that the EU will provide Euro 407 million to Bangladesh in the form of concessional loans and grants. Of this, Euro 350 million will be concessional loans, he said. Responding to a question, the foreign minister said the EU will send a seven-member team and Bangladesh will not spend money on foreign election observers. The prime minister will attend the Global Gateway Forum, which will bring together representatives of governments from the European Union and around the world along with the private sector, civil society, leading thinkers, financing institutions, and international organisations. The event will be held in the Belgian capital on October 25, 26. The prime minister will hold bilateral meetings with European Commission Vice President and European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday. The two sides are likely to shed light on taking the 50-year relations to new a height, Momen said. Also read: Foreigners should watch Mujib biopic to know Bangladesh, its history: Momen A loan agreement worth 350 million Euros will be signed between the Economic Relations Division and European Investment Bank during the visit. The PM will deliver her speech at the opening plenary session of the Global Gateway Forum which will be held for the first time. She will also hold a meeting with European Investment Bank President Dr Werner Hoyer, Momen said. European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič and Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen will separately meet the prime minister. She will attend a dinner to be hosted by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Also read: No one wins by killing innocent people: Momen tells OIC meeting in Jeddah PM Hasina will also attend a civic reception to be arranged by Bangladeshi expatriates in Belgium. She is scheduled to leave for Brussels on Tuesday morning by a commercial flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines. She will leave Brussels on Thursday night and arrive in Dhaka on Friday, said Momen who will accompany the premier. President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, invited PM Hasina when they met at the G20 Summit recently. The EU's Global Gateway strategy connects countries and regions around the world by encouraging public and private investments in a global network of transportation and supply chains, green energy, modern telecommunications, education and research, with an emphasis on sustainable development and European values, such as good governance, transparency and equal partnership.
Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley on Wednesday said aligning labour law with international standards will be an “essential element” for the European Parliament and the Commission in considering Bangladesh’s application for market access, the GSP+. “Bangladesh has the option to accede to GSP+ which is the next most generous GSP programme after the Everything but Arms (EBA),” he said while speaking at a seminar in Dhaka. Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi attended the seminar as the chief guest while President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) Md Sameer Sattar delivered welcome remarks. Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Lokman Hossain Miah, among others, spoke at the seminar. The DCCI and European Union Delegation to Bangladesh jointly hosted the seminar, titled “Unlocking Trade and Investment for European Companies in Bangladesh.” Read: EU urged to extend transition period of GSP up to 6 years for smooth graduation of Bangladesh The EU ambassador said the implementation of the National Action Plan on the labour sector, which Bangladesh agreed with the EU, will be key deciding factor for GSP+. “We are closely following the ongoing amendments of the Bangladesh Labour Act. We hope that the amendments will be effective with full transparency, in consultation with tripartite stakeholders, and with technical assistance from ILO,” he said. The envoy said Bangladesh is a rising economy with a great story of economic development and social progress. The graduation to a lower middle-income and to a developing country status are historic milestones which bring new opportunities and which call for a reinvigoration of EU-Bangladesh ties, he said.
Members of the Election Exploratory Mission (ExM) from European Union (EU) had a meeting with the Election Commission (EC) today (July 11, 2023), and wanted to know about its preparations for holding the next election "fairly and peacefully." The EC discussed its preparations with the visiting EU delegation. Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal, EU delegation leader Chelleri Riccardo, and EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whitely, among others, were present at the meeting. EC proved its ‘impartiality, capability through fair polls’ in 5 recent city elections: Monitoring Forum tells EU delegates A technical team of the mission will further discuss the relevant issues with the EC on July 18,19. EU delegation leader Riccardo said they are in Dhaka to assess the pre-electoral conditions in order to prepare an analysis for the EU High Representative which will then decide whether or not a full election observation mission will be deployed in Bangladesh. EU encourages ‘peaceful, fair, participatory’ election in Bangladesh: Ambassador Whiteley The CEC did not make any comment, saying his views are aligned with that of the EU delegation leader. Riccardo did not take any questions from the media. The EU mission will stay in Bangladesh till July 23. The main objective of the Election Exploratory Mission is to assess the “advisability, usefulness and feasibility” of a possible EU Election Observation Mission for the upcoming parliamentary election, according to the EU Mission in Dhaka. AL prefers dictatorship, feudalism, not democracy: Fakhrul
Six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have urged High Representative/Vice-President of the European Union (EU) Josep Borrell Fontelles to ensure free, fair, and impartial general election – possibly under a polls-time neutral, caretaker government – in Bangladesh. The MEPs are Ivan ŠTEFANEC (EPP, Slovak Republic), Michaela ŠOJDROVÁ (EPP, Czech Republic), Andrey KOVATCHEV (EPP, Bulgaria), Karen MELCHIOR (Renew, Denmark), Javier NART (Renew, Spain) and Heidi HAUTALA (Greens/EFA, Finland). Read more: Religious leaders shocked at congressmen's letter to Biden In a letter to the EU High Representative, the six MEPs also called for ending what they say “violation of human rights, release of Begum Khaleda Zia, and engagement of the government with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other major political parties to find out a sustainable and democratic solution to the ongoing crises.” The Embassy of the European Union in Dhaka, however, sees this letter as the views of the six MEPs who signed the letter. “I would just note that this letter reflects the views of the 6 MEPs who signed it,” EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, Charles Whiteley, told UNB. Read: State of Christians in Bangladesh: Archbishop Emeritus Patrick D'Rozario rejects 6 US congressmen’s letter to Biden EU has strong reasons to stand with the people of Bangladesh as a long-time partner in trade and development cooperation, the signatory MEPs believe. “Thus, the EU needs not only to remain in constant dialogue with Bangladesh’s authorities on human rights agenda, but also to produce tangible outcomes,” the letter reads. They mentioned potential measures such as restriction of entry into the EEA zone for those responsible for and complicit in human rights abuses, or regular reminding of the conditions for the GSP+ incentive to which Bangladesh is a bidder may be evaluated. Read: Exaggeration, inconsistency in Congressmen’s letter: Shahriar Alam “In this regard, we would appreciate to know more about the results of the EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission and Subgroup on Good Governance and Human Rights and the plans to work on the Bangladeshi authorities on these (and possibly other),” the letter reads.
Bangladesh’s apparel exports in the first nine months of the current fiscal, i.e. July 2022-March 2023, jumped by around 12 percent - an impressive clip by anybody's standards. It is even more impressive when you consider that apparel exports to the US, which has been its largest single market, actually declined 5%. On the other hand, exports to the European Union overall, kept up with the pace of the industry. Apparel exports to the European Union during July-March of the 2022-23 fiscal also jumped by almost 12 percent (11.8% to be more precise), to $17.61 billion, compared to the $15.75 billion recorded in July-March of the 2021-22 fiscal, according to BGMEA Director Mohiuddin Rubel. The overall growth in apparel export has been an impressive 12.2%, from $31.43 billion in the first 9 months of FY 2021-22, to $35.25 billion in the first 9 months of FY 2022-23. Read More: Speakers emphasise safety, security in industries to avert another Rana Plaza tragedy This highly impressive growth figure has been achieved despite the industry's exports to the US having actually declined by 5 percent - to $6.25 billion in the first 9 months of the current fiscal, from the $6.6 billion recorded last year. Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the UK and Canada reached $3.84 billion and $1.08 billion with 14.04 percent and 17.68 percent growth respectively. Among the major markets in the EU, apparel exports to Germany declined by 4.16% year-over-year while exports to France and Spain grew by 25.23% and 18.82% year-over-year respectively. On the other hand, exports to Poland declined by 14.86%. Read More: BGMEA writes to US policymakers for duty-free access for US cotton-made apparel. The most significant growth was reported in the nontraditional sector. The apparel export to nontraditional market increased by 34.74% to US$6.44 billion in July-March period of FY 2022-23 from US$ 4.78 billion in the same period. Mohiuddin Rubel, BGMEA director, said: “BGMEA is working to facilitate the exploration of new markets, as well as working on policy reforms to facilitate and simplify business.” “Our efforts will be continued, and it’s time for all of us in the industry to promote and highlight our strengths in new products and new markets before the global customers (existing and new ones) to explore new opportunities. That will help sustain our growth in the longer term,” he added. Read More: Apparel exports to EU grew 35.69% in 2022.
BNP had a closed-door meeting with the diplomats of the European Union (EU) countries in Bangladesh on Sunday where the party leaders told the envoys that their party will not go to the elections under the current government. “Like the people of Bangladesh, all democratic countries have been closely observing Bangladesh’s current situation and the atmosphere for the next election,” BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury told reporters after the meeting. Replying to a question, the BNP leader said they clearly told the EU envoys that their party will not go to the elections under the current government. He said EU countries are trying to look at Bangladesh’s current democratic and human rights situation, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of speech, and media freedom. “Especially, as there is an apprehension about the next election both in the country and beyond, they (EU naturally has a view on the matter. From that point of view, we had our discussion today (Sunday).” The one and a half--hour meeting was held at ABC House in Gulshan where the ambassadors of France, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands, led by EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley, were present. BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir led a four-member BNP delegation at the meeting. The other delegation members are Amir Khosru, BNP Organising Secretary Shama Obaed and Human Rights Affairs Secretary Advocate Asaduzzaman. Read more: EU delegation meets BNP leaders, discusses election issues Asked what they discussed about the next election, Khosur said they talked about how the electoral system in Bangladesh has collapsed as an 'illegal' government has been in power 'snatching' the right to vote of the country’s people. He said the foreign countries are also fearing that Bangladesh will fall into a crisis if the people of the country cannot exercise their right to vote in the next election. “From this apprehension, they (European Union) want to know how the next election is going to be held and how to make it neutral and participatory.” He said those countries of the world are closely observing Bangladesh they clearly know that the people of this country will not be able to exercise their right to vote and elect their representatives, government and parliament under the current "usurper regime". “They (EU countries) are aware of this fact and they also know the reasons behind it.” When asked whether the issue of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus was discussed, Khosru replied in the negative. Read more: EU keen to send observers for upcoming general election in Bangladesh: Envoy
BNP goes to embassies covertly, AL held meeting after being invited: Quader meets EU heads of missions
Road Transport and Bridges Minister and Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader today said that both the European Union (EU) and his party want an inclusive election that will be free and fair. “The European Union wants to see a participatory national election. Awami League also wants a good, fair election that will be free of issues. However, BNP is trying to use tactics out of fear of losing the election,” Quader said at a briefing after a meeting with heads of missions of European countries in Dhaka this morning. The EU diplomats met the Awami League general secretary as part of EU’s engagement with political parties ahead of the parliamentary election. Saying that BNP is attempting to come to power “relying on arson attacks, terrorism and through destabilizing the country,” Quader added, “BNP does not believe in dialogue. They did not participate in dialogues with the president and the Election Commission.” Awami League does not follow anyone’s orders; rather it only goes by the constitution, the minister asserted. “BNP goes to embassies covertly, without informing anyone, but Awami League has come after being invited,” he said, adding that meaningful discussions were held on various issues including election and international trade. Read more: BNP is the master of vindictive politics: Obaidul Quader Quoting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Quader said, “The upcoming election will be credible, fair and free. The Election Commission will play an independent and authoritative role. Sheikh Hasina’s government will provide all kinds of support to the Election Commission.” Representatives from seven European Union countries were present at the meeting.
The German government will not object if Poland decides to send Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, Germany's top diplomat said Sunday (January 22, 2023), indicating movement on supplying weapons that Kyiv has described as essential to its ability to fend off an intensified Russian offensive. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told French TV channel LCI that Poland has not formally asked for Berlin's approval to share some of its German-made Leopards but added “if we were asked, we would not stand in the way.” German officials “know how important these tanks are" and “this is why we are discussing this now with our partners,” Baerbock said in interview clips posted by LCI. Ukraine’s supporters pledged billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine during a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday. International defense leaders discussed Ukraine's urgent request for the Leopard 2 tanks, and the failure to work out an agreement overshadowed the new commitments. Read more: Russia claims progress in eastern Ukraine; Kyiv craves tanks Germany is one of the main donors of weapons to Ukraine, and it ordered a review of its Leopard 2 stocks in preparation for a possible green light. Nonetheless, the government in Berlin has shown caution at each step of increasing its military aid to Ukraine, a hesitancy seen as rooted in its history and political culture. Germany’s tentativeness has drawn criticism, particularly from Poland and the Baltic states, countries on NATO’s eastern flank that feel especially threatened by Russia’s renewed aggression. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that if the fellow NATO and European Unio member did not consent to transferring Leopard tanks to Ukraine, his country was prepared to build a “smaller coalition” of countries that would send theirs anyway. “Almost a year had passed since the outbreak of war,” Morawiecki said in an interview with Polish state news agency PAP published Sunday. “Evidence of the Russian army’s war crimes can be seen on television and on YouTube. What more does Germany need to open its eyes and start to act in line with the potential of the German state?” Read more: Deadly missile strike adds to Ukraine war fears in Poland Previously, some officials in Poland indicated that Finland and Denmark also were ready to send Leopards to Ukraine. Earlier Sunday, the speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, said governments that give more powerful weapons to Ukraine risked causing a “global tragedy that would destroy their countries.” “Supplies of offensive weapons to the Kyiv regime would lead to a global catastrophe,” Volodin said. “If Washington and NATO supply weapons that would be used for striking peaceful cities and making attempts to seize our territory as they threaten to do, it would trigger a retaliation with more powerful weapons.” French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said Sunday that he had asked his defense minister to “work on” the idea of sending some of France's Leclerc battle tanks to Ukraine. Read More: The AP Interview: Envoy says Taiwan learns from Ukraine war Macron spoke during a news conference in Paris with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as France and Germany commemorated the 60th anniversary of their post-World War II friendship treaty. In a joint declaration, the two countries committed to their “unwavering support” for Ukraine. France will make its tank decision based on three criteria, Macron said: that sharing the equipment does not lead to an escalation of the conflict, that it would provide efficient and workable help when training time is taken into account, and that it wouldn’t weaken France’s own military. Scholz did not respond when asked about the Leopard 2 tanks Sunday, but stressed that his country already has made sizable military contributions to Ukraine. “The U.S. is doing a lot, Germany is doing a lot, too," he said. "We have constantly expanded our deliveries with very effective weapons that are already available today. And we have always coordinated all these decisions closely with our important allies and friends.” Read More: German caution on Ukraine arms rooted in political culture In Washington, two leading lawmakers urged the U.S. on Sunday to send some of its Abrams tanks to Ukraine in the interests of overcoming Germany’s reluctance to share its own, more suitable tanks. “If we announced we were giving an Abrams tank, just one, that would unleash” the flow of tanks from Germany, Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC’s “This Week on Sunday.” “What I hear is that Germany’s waiting on us to take the lead.” Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke up for the U.S. sending Abrams. “If it requires our sending some Abrams tanks in order to unlock getting the Leopard tanks from Germany, from Poland, from other allies, I would support that,” Coons said. Read More: Defense leaders meet amid dissent over tanks for Ukraine Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of the Russian Security Council, said Friday's U.S.-led meeting at the air base in Germany “left no doubt that our enemies will try to exhaust or better destroy us,” adding that “they have enough weapons” to achieve the purpose. Medvedev, a former Russian president, warned that “in case of a protracted conflict,” Russia could seek to form a military alliance with "the nations that are fed up with the Americans and a pack of their castrated dogs." Ukraine has argued it needs more weapons as it anticipates Russia's forces launching a new offensive in the spring. Oleksii Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council, warned that Russia may try to intensify its attacks in the south and in the east and to cut supply channels of Western weapons, while conquering Kyiv “remains the main dream” in President Vladimir Putin’s "fantasies,” he said. Read More: Kyiv helicopter crash kills 18, including Ukraine’s interior minister, his two children In a column published by online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda. he described the Kremlin’s goal in the conflict as a “total and absolute genocide, a total war of destruction" Among those calling for more arms for Ukraine was the former British prime minister, Boris Johnson, who made a surprise trip to Ukraine on Sunday. Johnson, who was pictured in the Kyiv region town of Borodyanka, said he traveled to Ukraine at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “This is the moment to double down and to give the Ukrainians all the tools they need to finish the job. The sooner Putin fails, the better for Ukraine and for the whole world,” Johnson said in a statement. The last week was especially tragic for Ukraine even by the standards of a brutal war that has gone on for nearly a year, killing tens of thousands of people, uprooting millions more and creating vast destruction of Ukrainian cities. Read More: Netherlands says it will send Patriot assistance to Ukraine A barrage of Russian missiles struck an apartment complex in the southeastern city of Dnipro on Jan. 14, killing at least 45 civilians. On Wednesday, a government helicopter crashed into a building housing a kindergarten in a suburb of Kyiv. Ukraine's interior minister, other officials and a child on the ground were among the 14 people killed. Zelenskyy vowed Sunday that Ukraine would ultimately prevail in the war. “We are united because we are strong. We are strong because we are united," the Ukrainian leader said in a video address as he marked Ukraine Unity Day, which commemorates when east and west Ukraine were united in 1919. Read More: Ukraine strike deaths hit 40; Russia seen preparing long war
France and Germany are seeking to overcome differences laid bare by Russia's war in Ukraine and shore up their alliance with a day of ceremonies and talks Sunday on Europe’s security, energy and other challenges. Germany’s entire Cabinet is in Paris for joint meetings, and 300 lawmakers from both countries are coming together at the Sorbonne University to mark 60 years since a landmark treaty sealed a bond between the longtime enemies that underpins today’s European Union. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will oversee two rounds of talks at the Elysee Palace, focusing first on energy and economic policy, and then on defense. Read more: German caution on Ukraine arms rooted in political culture A top priority is working out Europe’s response to the subsidies for U.S. electric car makers and other businesses in the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, according to senior French and German officials. France wants Europe to counter what it considers an unfair move by Washington. Paris is pushing for the EU to relax rules on state subsidies in order to accelerate their allocation, simplify the bloc's support for investments and create an EU sovereign fund to boost green industries. Berlin, however, warns against protectionism. On defense, the neighbors are expected to discuss military aid to Ukraine, according to French and German officials who weren't authorized to be publicly named according to their governments’ policies. Both countries have contributed significant weaponry, but Ukraine is asking for tanks and more powerful arms as Russia’s war drags on. Read more: Russia claims progress in eastern Ukraine; Kyiv craves tanks The war has exposed differences in strategy between the two countries, notably in European talks on how to deal with the resulting energy crisis and punishing inflation, as well as over future military investment. Sunday’s gathering is the first such in-person joint government meeting since 2019. It was originally scheduled for October, but was repeatedly delayed. The officials are marking the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty signed by French President and wartime anti-Nazi resistance leader Charles de Gaulle and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer on Jan. 22, 1963.