The European Union has warned Bangladesh to conclude negotiations for repatriation of thousands of undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants living in its member countries and expressed regrets at “lack of progress” about their return.
In an apparent ultimatum, the EU on Wednesday asked Bangladesh to end the negotiations on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by the end of this month.
However, Bangladesh has expressed its inability to complete the complex negotiations within such a short time and sought more time.
Diplomatic sources in Brussels say the EU expressed serious regrets because of one-year delay in making progress in the negotiations.
“A lack of progress on these negotiations meant that no agreement could be reached on a timeframe for concluding the negotiations on the SOPs,” the EU said in a statement after the EU and Bangladesh had met for their eighth Joint Commission on July 12 in Brussels.
At the meeting, the Bangladeshi delegation placed their amendments to the draft SOPs on the return of irregular migrants from EU that were submitted to them in June 2016.
The statement added the EU and Bangladesh had an in-depth discussion on migration at the joint commission meeting. The Bangladeshi delegation was led by Senior Secretary to Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Shahidul Haque and the EU delegation was led by Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific Paola Pampaloni.
The EU side stuck to their position that Bangladesh must complete the negotiations by July. On the other side, Bangladesh delegates categorically said it would not be possible for them in such a short time.
On trade and investment, both sides reiterated their joint commitment to the Sustainability Compact, including the respect of labour rights in particular with regard to freedom of association.
Bangladesh has made efforts to effectively implement the International Labour Organisation's recent recommendations in this respect, the EU press release said.
However, the EU strongly underlined high importance on further addressing the ILO's recent recommendations swiftly through concrete actions and timelines. The EU also emphasised the need to make progress under the EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue, which aims at improving conditions for EU businesses.
Both the sides also agreed to raise awareness on opportunities related to the EU Research and Innovation programme HORIZON 2020, to continue to work on climate change and jointly explore new areas to work together, namely connectivity, maritime security, ocean governance and space.
The EU and Bangladesh also agreed to strengthen their cooperation in the field of aviation security and work on common agenda with a view to reaching concrete progress and deliverables, which will be reviewed in the course of the next Joint Commission to be held in Dhaka in 2018.
The agenda of the joint commission includes political developments on both sides, the role of the rule of law in democracy and governance, human rights, migration, trade and investment, labour rights, development cooperation, and humanitarian issues.
The EU and Bangladesh exchanged views on key directions for the development cooperation agenda for 2018-2020, notably in the areas of education and skills development, public financial management, and support to social safety nets.
In this respect, both sides agreed on the importance of regular sector policy dialogue to accompany long-term reforms and reinforce the EU-Bangladesh partnership for development cooperation in these areas.
The EU and Bangladesh agreed to work jointly towards the implementation of the SDGs and reconfirmed their shared understanding of the importance of translating the commitments of the 2030 Agenda into comprehensive sector implementation plans.
Building on previous high-level dialogues and in the light of the recent G20 Leaders' Declaration, both the sides committed to stepping up cooperation on migration, upholding human rights, including international labour standards, ensuring women's empowerment, implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement and the Nationally Determined Contributions, implementing the Agenda 2030, and fighting terrorism.