The delegation said in a Saturday statement at the end of three sub-groups meetings with the government that victims of violence must get justice.
The meetings, held on Feb 26-27, discussed issues of governance, human rights and migration, trade and development cooperation under the framework of the 2001 Cooperation Agreement.
“Victims of violence deserve proper justice,” the EU said, pointing out that human rights’ is the “corner stone” of the EU-Bangladesh relations.
They also discussed the way forward to boost trade as the EU remained the single largest export destination for Bangladesh products, which enjoy duty-free access there.
The EU also confirmed new grants of up to €690 million through the ‘Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2014-2020’ for Bangladesh at the sub-group on development cooperation meeting.
It said these meetings took place after a number of major events in relations between Brussels and Dhaka, including, most recently a visit by Members of the European Parliament.
The EU said at the outset of the Sub-Group on ‘Governance, Human Rights and Migration’, the EU raised a number of concerns about the current political situation.
In particular, the need to protect the fundamental democratic rights of the people of Bangladesh was discussed, in view of the recent incidents of violence.
“Perpetrators, whoever they are, must be identified, brought to justice and they should receive a fair trial,” it said.
There was a “fruitful” discussion on the “importance” of upholding rule of law and respecting human rights as fundamental instruments for de-escalating political tensions.
The EU delegation also addressed the need to strengthen cooperation on democracy, governance and human rights, in particular, the implementation of the international human rights standards relating to the judiciary and freedom of expression.
Recent developments on rule of law, good governance, transparency, accountability for extrajudicial killings, freedom of the media, freedom of assembly and civil society were some of the issues of “mutual interest and concern” they discussed.
The focus of one sub-group meeting was labour rights, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, the situation of the Rohingyas, women and children’s rights, the death penalty and migration issues.
The EU reiterated the importance of protecting human rights defenders.
“Bangladesh's membership of the UN Human Rights Council should be an opportunity to work more closely with the EU on promoting and protecting human rights.”
“The EU and Bangladesh agreed to continue their dialogue on these issues.”
Bringing trade and investment forward
The sub-group meeting on Trade and Economic Cooperation highlighted the growth of bilateral trade flows in the last 3 years.
This pointed to an increase in Bangladesh's exports to the EU, as a result of the preferences granted under the Everything but Arms (EBA) scheme.
The meeting also discussed the ‘Sustainability Compact’ to promote better labour rights and safer working conditions, as well as more responsible supply management in Bangladesh.
The recommendations of the recently launched "EU Business Council Bangladesh" to improve the business climate and spur foreign direct investment and economic growth in Bangladesh were also presented.
During the meeting, the EU- Bangladesh Horizontal Aviation Agreement was initialled.
The EU side also presented the opportunity for Bangladesh to participate in the new EU programme on research and innovation "Horizon 2020".
New grants support
At the sub-group on Development Cooperation, the EU confirmed new grants up to €690 million through the Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2014-2020 for Bangladesh.
The funds will focus on three sectors that the EU said “vital” for poverty reduction and inclusive and sustainable growth -- democratic governance, food and nutrition security, and education and skills development.
Crosscutting issues will also be addressed through engagement in these sectors, including gender equality, human and labour rights, disaster risk reduction, environment and climate change.
The EU side highlighted the need to strengthen the policy dialogue that it said was “a critical factor” to achieve sector policy development and make the best use of the available resources.
To this effect, EU emphasised the role of budget support.
In addition, the combination of grants and loans, known as "blending", is an important way of financing key infrastructure.
The EU expressed the need to see tangible progress on public finance management (PFM) in 2015, notably with the Bangladesh government's “comprehensive reform strategy”.
“These ambitious goals can only be achieved by mobilising partners from, and building alliances with, a wide spectrum of development institutions, from the government to the private sector, civil society organisations and the people themselves”.