A Brussels diplomatic source said the issues to be discussed in the first political dialogue are definitely related to the strategic partnership. But it will take some more time to elevate the relation with the EU to the strategic level because this is the first ever political dialogue between Bangladesh and the EU.

Through this dialogue, the issue of strategic partnership will take a final shape through coordination of the two parties’ demands. Of the South Asian countries, currently only India and Pakistan have strategic relation with the EU.

EU ambassador in Bangladesh, Charles Whiteley, told media that overall political issues will be discussed in the first dialogue between Bangladesh and the Europe.

Besides, regional and global issues will also be discussed here. Different issues including curbing terrorism and militancy, enhancing communication, Ukraine crisis, peace mission and other issues will get importance. Overall, the main objective of the political dialogue is to move ahead jointly braving various problems.

Agenda of dialogue

A Brussels diplomatic source said the two sides have finalised the agenda of political dialogue through discussion a few months ago. The issues include democracy, politics, good governance, human rights, defence, security, curbing militancy and terrorism, cybersecurity, climate change, migration, trade and investment and connectivity and a few other issues.

Wishing not to be named, a senior Bangladeshi official said democracy, freedom and the rule of law are among the fundamental principles of the European Union. As a result, discussion on democracy and political situation will be held from the context of EU’s fundamental principles. But the two sides could discuss about their plans and expectations regarding the next 12th parliamentary elections in Bangladesh.

The EU alongside the international community has been talking about freedom of expression in Bangladesh, several sections of the Digital Security Act (DSA) and its abuse.

Regarding this a senior diplomat said the issues of labour rights, freedom of expression and others will be raised in the discussion in the context of overall human rights. The discussion on human rights will not remain limited to Bangladesh only. Europe and the global context will also be discussed.

Not limited to bilateral issues only

Amid the fallout of Russia-Ukraine war, the discussion will also be about how to overcome the crisis. Both Russia and the alliance of Western countries of Europe and the US hope to get Bangladesh at their respective sides. Bangladesh, however, has been maintaining a balanced position on this till now.

Analysing the trend of voting at the United Nations over Russia-Ukraine war, it can be seen that Bangladesh has casted vote twice in favour of Russia and twice against it while abstained from voting once. Bangladesh could maintain an independent position considering the territorial integrity, sovereignty, values of humanitarian assistance and ideological position. The EU has been lauding the position of Bangladesh so far. But the bloc might raise its wish to get Bangladesh at its side during the dialogue.

Diplomatic sources of Brussels in Dhaka and Bangladesh said relations between Bangladesh and its neighbouring countries will also be discussed in the first political dialogue. Brussels has a curiosity to know about Bangladesh’s relation with India and China.

India and Indo-Pacific strategy

The recent geopolitical issues regarding India and Indo-Pacific strategy might also be raised in the dialogue. Alongside highlighting the strategic papers, the European Union would ask about Bangladesh’s strategies on this region.

Speaking to Prothom Alo about overall issues, former foreign secretary Md Touhid Hossain said, “We have to focus on building a close relation with the European Union. Because, they are our reliable trade partner. It would be easier to build a close relation with them through dispelling their concerns.”

*The report, originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza.