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Bangladesh - July 10, 2023

EU threatens Bangladesh to stop duty-free benefits

Special Correspondent: The European Union (EU) has been providing GSP benefits on 97 percent of Bangladesh’s exports under the Everything But Arms Scheme. And according to sources, the EU has agreed to continue duty-free trade facilities until 2029. But the EU recently threatened Bangladesh to stop the facilities if the human rights and labour rights situation in Bangladesh are not ensured.
The Everything But Arms (EBA) facility that Bangladesh enjoys for exporting goods is ‘conditional’ as countries benefiting from the scheme must respect human rights, including labor rights. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, JosepBorrell, said this in a letter to Ivan Stefanek, a member of the European Parliament representing Slovakia.
In the letter written on Thursday, JosepBorrell said that the European Union and member states will be closely involved with the country’s government and all stakeholders regarding human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Bangladesh. All stakeholders have to play a role in creating confidence in the electoral process in Bangladesh.
And for that, meaningful dialogue between the main political parties and civil society must be ensured. He also mentioned in the letter that the European Union encourages all political parties and citizens of Bangladesh to exercise their political rights and participate in the parliamentary elections.
Six members of the European Parliament, including Ivan Stephanek, wrote a letter to JosepBorrell on June 12, urging him to play a role in free, fair and impartial elections in Bangladesh. It talked about the government’s discussion with political parties to stop human rights violations in Bangladesh and to find a sustainable and democratic solution to the ongoing crisis.

In response to their letter, JosepBorrell sent this letter. JosepBorrell thanked Ivan Stephenek for giving that letter on June 12, ahead of the national elections of Bangladesh. The EU senior representative also mentioned in his letter that he is aware of the concerns expressed by six members of the European Parliament in that letter.

The Bangladesh government has invited the European Union to observe the elections, writes JosepBorrell. Welcoming that decision, as an initial step, a fact-finding mission is being sent to Bangladesh to review the situation, benefits and feasibility of election observation.

Referring to the meaningful dialogue between the political parties in Bangladesh, the EU foreign policy chief said that the protection of basic freedoms including freedom of expression and assembly is essential for democracy. On the other hand, violence has no place in the democratic process.

So, violence should be avoided at any cost. This senior representative of the EU said that human rights, democracy, rule of law are an integral part of the values and policies of the European Union. Therefore, the European Union regularly raises these issues with Bangladesh.

Referring to the preferential treatment (GSP) for Bangladeshi products in the European market, JosepBorrell said that Bangladesh enjoys this treatment in everything except arms. Bangladesh is one of the countries with which there is increased engagement in addressing human rights and labor rights-related concerns.

A report will be given in 2023 about how much progress has been made in this field under GSP from 2020 to 2022.

The European Commission vice president said the EU has repeatedly stated that EBA facilities are conditional on human rights protections, including labor rights, which are enshrined in the GSP rules. Even if Bangladesh decides to apply for GSP Plus benefits in the future, these conditions must be met.

Borel expressed concern over the deteriorating physical condition of former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia. He stressed on ensuring maximum medical facilities for Begum Zia.

In a statement on this subject, Joseph Borrell said that the European Union is closely monitoring the health condition of former Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia. It is very important that he gets maximum medical benefits. The EU is in contact with the government in this regard.

The statement also said that the European Union and its member states will maintain close contact with the government and institutions of Bangladesh to ensure human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

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