A European Parliamentary delegation on Wednesday hoped that the political atmosphere in Bangladesh would become less confrontational and hostile in coming months.
The delegation urged the Bangladesh government to facilitate the necessary conditions for an inclusive, free and fair parliamentary election.
“We hope all parties will actually be willing to stand for [the] election to make sure that people of Bangladesh have a real choice at the ballot-box,” the delegation chair, Jean Lambert, told reporters at a press conference before wrapping up their Bangladesh visit.
She said they had a meeting with the Election Commission and discussed how the next national election can be inclusive, free and fair.
Lambert said they also discussed issues related to budget, capacity building and election management.
The EU delegates met with State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda, Commerce Secretary Shubhashish Bose, and BNP leaders ahead of the general elections slated for December this year.
The delegates informed that up to EUR690 million has been earmarked in EU support for Bangladesh in the current Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020. They also reiterated their wish to remain engaged and to further support Bangladesh in areas such as human rights, good governance and the environment.
They hoped that the impressive economic growth of the past years and the encouraging progress in the fight against poverty, which have made Bangladesh an important trading partner of the European Union, will further help achieve the goals to which it has committed, in a more inclusive manner.
The European Parliamentarians (MEPs)regretted, however, the deterioration of the human rights situation over the past few years, and took note of reports on hindrance to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and violence against women.
The issue of child marriage remains a serious concern and violence against secular writers and bloggers, against members of religious minorities and against LGBTI people must end, they said.
The delegation invited the Bangladesh government to undertake initiatives to address these concerns and facilitate the valuable work of civil society in ensuring civil and political rights.
They welcomed progress related to Sustainability Compact, but recalled that a number of relevant issues in that context remain pending, notably in the area of labour rights.
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The MEPs stressed the need for fully aligning the Labour Act and the EPZ Labour Act with ILO standards, in particular Conventions nos 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining.
They noted, furthermore, that the likely graduation to middle income country status will require a transitional process to implement and monitor the required ILO Conventions.
Richard Corbett, James Nicholson, Wajid Khan and Sajjad Kari, in his capacity as rapporteur on South Asia in the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, were among the delegation members.
The visit of MEPs was organized in two parts.
On Monday, MEPs visited Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and gathered first-hand information on the ongoing exodus and refugee crisis.
This part of the visit was organized together with a delegation of the European Parliament’s Sub-committee on Human Rights, led by its chairman Pier Antonio Panzeri, who travelled onwards to Myanmar.
During the second part of the visit, the MEPs returned to Dhaka for meetings with the Bangladesh authorities, mainly with its counterparts in the Bangladesh Parliament and with representatives of civil society.