Govt focuses on strengthening ties with European countries

The prime minister is leaving for Munich today, Thursday. Meetings will be held with the top leaders of Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark on the sidelines of the Munich Summit

Map of Europe

The government formed by the Awami League for the fourth straight term is paying special attention to strengthening relations with European countries. The European countries have also shown keen interest in enhancing ties with Bangladesh in different fields, especially business and investment.

As part of taking relations with Europe forward, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is embarking on her first foreign tour of the current term, beginning with Germany.

Addressing a media conference on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud said the prime minister will leave on Thursday to attend a security conference to be held in Munich, Germany, between 16 and 18 February.

On the sidelines of the conference, Sheikh Hasina will hold bilateral meetings with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and prime ministers of Denmark and the Netherlands, Mette Frederiksen and Mark Rutte respectively.

Besides, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, UK’s Commonwealth and Development Affairs Secretary of State for Foreign David Cameron, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Svenja Schulze, World Bank Development Policy and Partnership Senior Managing Director Axel Van Trotsenburge and Meta Global affairs president Sir Nick Clegg will call upon the Bangladesh prime minister.

Bangladeshi diplomats working in several European countries and in Dhaka informed this correspondent that the EU had been continuously asking about a free, fair and participatory election in the run up to 12th parliamentary elections. Following the 7 January election, EU’s Josep Borrell on 9 January issued a statement where he regretted that all the political parties did not take part in the election. He also asked the relevant authorities to carry out a timely and complete investigation of the allegations of irregularities in the election.

When asked about the reason for the EU’s stepping away from its insistence on holding a free, fair and participatory election, several Bangladeshi diplomats remarked that although there were fears of violence, except a few exceptions, the elections ended peacefully. Besides, the European countries, especially Germany, France, and the Netherlands, are particularly interested in business, investment and defence cooperation alongside human rights.

Nordic countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway prioritise values such as human rights and good governance, particularly in their foreign policy agendas. Given this emphasis, the major powers of the EU have underscored the need to continually advance relations with the government of Bangladesh, considering its geographical location, socio-economic progress, and experiences post-2014 elections.

In light of these factors, the EU as a whole is expected to prioritise its own interests, including business and investment, even if values such as human rights and good governance are highlighted in the future.

PM's speech Friday

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed this correspondent that the theme of this year's Munich Security Conference revolves around four main issues. These include global security challenges, international frameworks, regional conflicts, and the significance of Europe in the world.

Under the umbrella of global security challenges, discussions will encompass topics such as climate security, technological security, and the conflict in Myanmar. The conference will also address peacekeeping operations and geopolitics within the context of international frameworks.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the situation in the Middle East, and geopolitics will be scrutinised as part of the discussions on regional conflicts. Additionally, the conference will examine Europe's role and importance in the global arena.

A senior diplomat said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to address the Munich Security Conference on 16 February. Her speech will primarily center on climate security and the financing necessary to mitigate the risks associated with climate change.

In relation to the Munich Security Conference, the Foreign Minister commented, "The Rohingyas have posed a security threat in our country. Moreover, the ongoing issues in Myanmar have generated regional security risks. Various discussions will take place, and the Rohingya issue may be addressed during the conference."

Three important meetings in Munich

On the sidelines of the Security Conference, the Prime Minister will convene a meeting with the German Chancellor, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and the Prime Minister of Denmark on 17 February.

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted that this marks the first meeting between the Prime Minister and a German Chancellor since 2017.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, several key topics will be addressed. These include incorporating measures to combat climate change risks into development cooperation efforts, integrating elements of defense and strategic partnership to elevate the bilateral relationship to a strategic level through enhanced security cooperation, and fostering increased trade and investment between the two nations.

Additionally, discussions will revolve around the respective positions of both countries concerning the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The meeting will explore avenues to enhance cooperation in alignment with these positions, promoting regional stability and prosperity.

During the prime minister's meeting with the Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte, discussions will encompass cooperation in the water resources sector, including initiatives such as the Delta Plan. Additionally, collaboration in the development of the agricultural sector and enhancing the efficiency of the supply chain will be on the agenda. The meeting will also explore opportunities for defense cooperation between the two countries.

In the meeting with Denmark's prime minister Mette Frederiksen, topics will include investment in port infrastructure development, particularly the proposal to construct a green terminal in Chattogram's Laldia area. Another key agenda item will be the proposal to generate wind power in Cox's Bazar's Maheshkhali region.