Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today called her visit to Brussels very fruitful saying Bangladesh's partnership with the European Union (EU) reached new height during the visit.
"New doors of investment opportunities in renewable energy, connectivity, education and research, digital infrastructure and medical equipment manufacturing in Bangladesh have been opened up under the Global Gateway," she said.
She added: "Through my visit, I am hopeful that Bangladesh's bilateral relations with Belgium and Luxembourg will be deepened and areas of cooperation will be expanded."
The premier said this while reading out a written speech in a press conference on her visit to Brussels, the capital of Belgium from October 24 to 26 to attend the Global Gateway Forum organized for the first time by the EU.
Following is the full text of her speech.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Dear journalist brothers and sisters,
Assalamu Alaikum. Good afternoon
I visited Brussels, the capital of Belgium from October 24 to 26 in 2023 to attend the Global Gateway Forum organized for the first time by the European Union.
I joined this forum at the invitation of the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Hon'ble Foreign Minister, Hon'ble Information Minister, my Private Investment Advisor, State Minister for Power and Energy, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Members of Parliament and senior officials of the government were my entourage.
On the first day of the visit, in the morning of October 25, Executive Vice President of the European Commission and European Trade Commissioner Mr Valdis Dombrovskis met in my hotel suite.
In the meeting, we expressed our satisfaction over the 50 years of partnership between Bangladesh and the European Union and hoped to strengthen this relationship in the future.
I thanked the European Union for providing trade facilities to Bangladesh's socio-economic development under the Everything But Arms of European Union.
I requested to continue providing trade facilities for 6 years up to 2032 instead of 3 years in the post-graduation period from LDCs for Bangladesh and other LDCs after taking into account the economic impacts due to Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war, sanctions and counter-sanctions.
At the same time, I also requested providing GSP+ trade facilities to Bangladesh in the next phase.
Highlighting the economic progress of Bangladesh, especially the investment opportunities, I called upon the member states of the European Union to invest in Bangladesh's renewable energy, ICT and other sectors.
The European Trade Commissioner lauded Bangladesh's socio-economic progress and expressed views on holding further discussions on continuing trade facilities in the post-graduation period.
After that, I had a bilateral meeting with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the commission office.
In the meeting, the European Commission president thanked me for attending the Global Gateway Forum. In the meeting, we announced to enhance the close partnership between Bangladesh and the European Union to a new height in 50 years and for this purpose we decided to start the talks on Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the two sides soon.
The European Commission president highlighted the contribution of trade facilities under the Everything But Arms of the European Union. Multifaceted relations of Bangladesh with the European Union including trade and economy, safe migration, Rohingya issue were discussed.
Also, cooperation on strategic issues in bilateral relations including renewable energy, connectivity was discussed between the two sides under Global Gateway.
After the meeting, several loan assistance and grant agreements worth 477 million Euros were signed between the Government of Bangladesh, the European Investment Bank and the European Commission. President of the European Commission, the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank and I were present at the agreement signing ceremony.
Among the agreements, there were a 350 million Euro loan support agreement with European Investment Bank, a 45 million Euro investment and technical assistance grant with the European Commission, and a 12 million Euro green energy grant agreement.
In addition to these, five separate grant agreements of 70 million Euros were signed between the Bangladesh government and the European Commission in the social sector of Bangladesh. Afterwards, the President of the European Commission and I addressed a joint press conference.
In the afternoon I gave a speech at the Opening Plenary Session of the Global Gateway Forum. In my speech, I highlighted the unprecedented socio-economic development of Bangladesh in the last 15 years. I expressed hope that the Global Gateway initiative will become a bridge in long-lasting peace and sustainable investment around the world.
Also, I called on keeping European Union trade privileges for countries like Bangladesh to smoothen the transition process from LDCs.
I called on the leaders of the European Union and other countries to end the ongoing wars and conflicts in different parts of the world. I called on stopping the arms race and investing the money in education, health, food security, etc.
In the afternoon of the same day, the president of the European Investment Bank Dr. Werner Hoyer paid a courtesy call on me.
During the meeting, I called for investment in Bangladesh's river dredging, water resources conservation, irrigation using surface water, rail and other connectivity, building infrastructure for vaccine production and research in Bangladesh, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies manufacturing.
Later, European Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer met me. In the meeting, we agreed on the speedy end to ongoing wars and conflicts in different parts of the world and emphasized on strengthening cooperation between the European Parliament and Bangladesh National Parliament.
In the afternoon, I had a meeting with the European Commission's Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic.
During the meeting, he announced another 10.5 million Euro grant from the European Union for the Rohingyas living in Bangladesh. I called on the European Union to play a stronger role in the repatriation of Rohingyas to their home country of Myanmar. Besides, the European Commission's Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen also met me.
In the evening on that day, I joined the dinner hosted by European Commission's president in honor of the heads of state and government participating in the Global Gateway Forum.
On the morning of the second day of the visit on October 26, I had a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, at his office. During the meeting, I highlighted the contribution of the European Union's EBA trade facilities to the socio-economic development of Bangladesh. In view of the economic impacts caused by Covid-19 and the Ukraine war, we requested for extending cooperation for continuing the ongoing trade facilities for 6 years instead of 3 years in the post graduation period from LDCs.
The Prime Minister of Belgium and I discussed cooperation between the two countries in vaccine production in Bangladesh, ICT, renewable energy and green hydrogen, shipbuilding near Payra port and construction of ship re-cycling infrastructure.
In addition, the Prime Minister of Belgium assured cooperation when I called for the exchange of Belgian experience for the further development of the recently introduced Universal Pension Scheme in Bangladesh.
Then I had a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Luxemburg Xavier Bettel in my hotel suite. In the meeting, I thanked Luxembourg for its development assistance in the socio-economic development of the Char area in the northern part of Bangladesh.
I also sought his support in extending the European Union's trade facilities for Bangladesh up to 2032 instead of 2029.
I also called upon Luxembourg for investing in our ICT and renewable energy sectors. The Prime Minister of Luxembourg expressed interest in strengthening Bangladesh-Luxembourg bilateral relations.
He gave assurance of cooperation in continuing Bangladesh's trade privileges in the European Union. He expressed interest in sending a trade mission from Luxembourg to Bangladesh to identify trade and investment opportunities between the two countries. He expressed hope that an aviation agreement would be signed soon between the two countries with the aim of increasing bilateral trade.
Later, I participated in the Global Gateway Forum's Closing Plenary Session. In that afternoon I attended a civic reception organized by expatriate Bangladeshis living in Belgium on virtual platform. Also, during this visit, I was interviewed by EURONEWS and POLITICO.
I left Brussels for Dhaka by a Biman Bangladesh's commercial flight on October 26 night and reached Dhaka in the afternoon on October 27.
My visit to Brussels was very fruitful. Bangladesh's partnership with the European Union has reached new heights during this visit. New investment opportunities in renewable energy, connectivity, education and research, digital infrastructure and medical equipment manufacturing in Bangladesh have been opened up under the Global Gateway.
Through my visit, I am hopeful that Bangladesh's bilateral relations with Belgium and Luxembourg will be deepened and areas of cooperation will be expanded.
Thank you all.
Joy Bangla Joy Bangabandhu.
May Bangladesh Live Forever.