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Prime Minister’s Visit to Brussels Will Prioritize 3 Issues

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s upcoming visit to Brussels will focus on three key areas:

  • Joining the Global Gateway Fund, which will provide Bangladesh with a loan and grant of nearly €39 million.
  • Discussions on the future of relations with the European Union (EU).
  • Meetings with top leaders of EU member states.

Diplomatic sources in Dhaka and Brussels said that the visit is politically significant, coming ahead of Bangladesh’s general election. The EU has been calling for free, fair, and peaceful elections in Bangladesh for over a year, along with the United States.

Prime Minister Hasina will travel to Brussels on Tuesday, October 24, to attend the first meeting of the Global Gateway Forum on October 25-26. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen confirmed the visit to reporters last week.

Loan of €35 million, grant of €4.5 million

The theme of the first meeting of the Global Gateway Forum, as stated on the EU website, is “Building Together for Sustainable Development.” The meeting will be attended by high-level representatives of the EU and partner countries, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the private sector, civil society, and international organizations. Twenty heads of government, including Bangladesh, Senegal, Namibia, and Moldova, will attend the meeting.

According to information published on the website of the European Commission, €13.5 billion has been finalized for investment in a fund of €30 billion for six years from 2021 to 2027 as part of the implementation of the Global Gateway strategy. The Global Gateway strategy focuses on issues such as climate change risk mitigation, health system development, and strengthening competition and security in supply chains.

The inaugural session of the Global Gateway Forum will be held on the first day, October 25. The inaugural session will focus on issues such as the transition to clean energy, education and research, critical raw materials, and communication corridors. On the last day, October 26, discussions will focus on the production of health products and the development of digital infrastructure. European Commission Vice-President Josep Borrell will speak at the closing session.

Foreign Ministry officials said that Prime Minister Hasina may speak at the inaugural session of the forum. Diplomatic sources said that the two-day discussion will announce the implementation of 89 projects under the Global Gateway. The EU is focusing on cooperation in the production of clean energy in Bangladesh. As part of this, the European Investment Bank has finalized a loan of €35 million and a grant of €4.5 million for Bangladesh for solar and wind power. A contract will be signed on this issue at the Global Gateway Forum.

Discussions on EU relations

This will be the first time that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has served as Prime Minister for three consecutive terms, has participated in any event of the European Union or the European Commission. She visited Brussels in 2010 and 2018 to attend meetings of other forums.

Diplomatic sources in Dhaka said that the meeting between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels will be particularly important in determining the future direction of relations between the EU and Dhaka after five decades of relations. The two sides are expected to discuss the transition of their mutual partnership from development cooperation to strategic cooperation in the next phase of relations.

Human rights protection is an important element in cooperation or partnership with Europe. When attention was drawn to this issue, a senior official, who did not want to be named, told this reporter that the EU always emphasizes the issue of continuous improvement in the protection of fundamental human rights. As a result, human rights will remain one of the main components in the next phase of relations as well.

Meetings with European leaders

According to diplomatic observers, the visit of Prime Minister Hasina to Brussels is significant for conveying the government’s position on elections, good governance, and human rights to European leaders in the midst of the Global Gateway Forum. In addition, Bangladesh’s products will continue to receive preferential market access (GSP) in the European market until 2026. However, Bangladesh will have to meet many conditions to get GSP Plus benefits. One of these conditions is democracy, good governance, and fair elections.

Diplomatic sources said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will try to convey her position on all issues related to elections, including the use of her participation in the Global Gateway Forum, to the top leaders of EU member states in the discussions.

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