A seminar titled ‘Cooperation between the European Union and Bangladesh and opportunities for Bangladesh’s economy’ took place in Brussels, Belgium. The seminar was hosted at Brussels Press Club on July 2, 2023. The seminar was organized by Study Circle London and the European Institute of Asian Studies. Syed Majammil Ali, Chairperson of Study Circle London, presented an article titled ‘Bangladesh: Inexorable Development Journey’ that focused on the progress of Bangladesh’s economy.
Speakers at the seminar praised Bangladesh’s remarkable progress in overcoming numerous obstacles, suggesting that developed countries could learn from its example. They highlighted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s efficient leadership, which has driven Bangladesh’s economy forward while improving social, democratic, and developmental indicators. Despite challenges like the impact of Covid and the Ukraine war, Bangladesh’s economic progress remains unstoppable.
The participants of the seminar observed, over the past decade, Sheikh Hasina’s leadership has led to unprecedented economic growth and significant achievements in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals. Notably, Bangladesh has even outperformed its neighbor India in reaching the targets for most social indicators under the MDGs.
The seminar was enriched by the appearance of various speakers, including John Cornet Ilgius, Acting Director for Asia and the Pacific of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tarana Halim, former Member of Parliament of Bangladesh, Renji Tirink, Head of South Asia at European External Action, Nahim Razzak, MP of Bangladesh, Milan Jover, Member of Parliament of Belgium, President of BGMEA. Farooq Hossain, and Ambassador of Bangladesh to Belgium, Luxembourg and European Union Mahbub Hasan Saleh.
Journey of Economic Prosperity and Self-reliance
The seminar discussed Bangladesh’s remarkable economic growth, moving from a least-developed country to a middle-income nation. The country has enjoyed a strong and beneficial relationship with the European Union for the past 50 years since gaining independence. The effective governance of Bangladesh’s development model has contributed to its success in poverty reduction, education, women’s empowerment, and the establishment of an export-oriented economy, particularly in the readymade garment sector. This development model has gained recognition from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, international organizations, and the global community.
In the last 14 years, Bangladesh has made significant progress, achieving a 7% GDP growth rate which outranked the EU’s 5.39% growth in 2021. The nation has undertaken ambitious projects, including the construction of the Padma Bridge, a nearly 4 billion-USD initiative funded entirely through domestic resources. With visionary leadership and a commitment to becoming a developed country by 2041, Bangladesh has become a role model for development. This achievement is remarkable considering the country’s past designation as an international basket case.
Anti-Bangladesh Propaganda Criticized
Speakers talked about certain vested groups in Bangladesh that have initiated a propaganda campaign that works against the best interests of the country. These groups consistently spread false accusations about the government to foreign missions in Bangladesh, as well as to foreign governments and lawmakers in North America and Europe. However, the speakers crucially highlighted that both the government and the Election Commission have openly expressed their willingness to invite foreign election observers. This is to ensure transparency and fairness in the upcoming parliamentary elections. In fact, the EU Delegation in Bangladesh has already received an invitation to send election observers.
Focus on Free, Fair, Participatory Election
During his impactful speech at the conference, Belgian journalist Andy Vermaut lauded the resilience, strength, and immense potential of the people of Bangladesh. He acknowledged the impressive transformation the country has undergone in the last five decades, progressing from a least-developed nation to a middle-income country. He specifically praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership and her steadfast determination to steer Bangladesh towards socio-economic development. He also recognized the historical significance of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman whose vision and inspiration continue to shape Bangladesh’s journey. In relation to the upcoming parliamentary elections, Vermaut called upon all political parties to ensure an electoral process that is free, fair, and inclusive, guided by the Independent Election Commission. He urged opposition parties to actively engage with the people and uphold the democratic principles that are fundamental to Bangladesh’s progress.
Praise for Humanitarian Efforts with Rohingya Refugees
The seminar recognized Bangladesh has shown its dedication to humanitarian efforts by offering temporary shelter to almost 1.2 million Rohingya refugees who were forcibly displaced from Myanmar since August 2017. While receiving support from the international community, this significant influx has placed a tremendous strain on Bangladesh. The European Union has consistently supported Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress, with a specific focus on empowering women and promoting education. Additionally, the EU has recognized the generosity of the Bangladeshi government in providing temporary refuge to the Rohingya refugees.
Insightful Speech by Journalist Gary Cartwright
Esteemed journalist Gary Cartwright, the publishing editor of EU Today, delivered a perceptive speech discussing the remarkable development progress of Bangladesh and the obstacles it still faces. The conference focused on Bangladesh’s journey since the partition of India in 1947 and emphasized the importance of continued engagement and support from the European Union (EU). Mr. Cartwright highlighted the significant advancements made by Bangladesh, once categorized as a least-developed nation but now recognized as a middle-income country with a flourishing relationship with the EU. However, he also acknowledged the challenges the country confronts, such as the denial of history, political violence, and intolerance fueled by opposition political parties. Despite these challenges, Bangladesh has achieved exceptional socio-economic development, including poverty reduction, advancements in education, and women’s empowerment.
Andy Vermaut reassures Support for Bangladesh
Andy Vermaut reassured the European Union, the United States, and other friendly countries of their support for Bangladesh in conducting peaceful elections and continuing its sustainable development journey. He emphasized that the future of Bangladesh should be shaped by its sovereign people, with international support aligning with their decisions. Vermaut acknowledged the challenges faced by Bangladesh, including political unrest, religious fundamentalism, and extremism, while also praising the country’s resilience and determination in pursuing socio-economic development. He called for unity, dialogue, and prioritizing the needs of the people to ensure a brighter future. Vermaut emphasized the importance of solidarity with Bangladesh, upholding democratic values, and respecting human rights and dignity. He expressed confidence that with strong leadership and the partnership between Bangladesh, the European Union, and the United States, the country will continue to prosper, foster democracy, and maintain peace despite geopolitical and internal challenges.