No impact on European business interest in Bangladesh, says EU envoy about sanctions

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Dhaka, Jan 27: Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley on Thursday said he does not see any sign that the recent decision on sanctions is having an impact on European business interest in Bangladesh or their desire to take that business forward.

“I would say business is business, and they (investors) pay attention to whether they can make money in the country and whether there are  attractive business climates. So, I haven’t seen any signs yet that these developments would have an impact on business engagement in Bangladesh,” he said.

The EU envoy also said businesses pay attention to the overall picture in a country.

Ambassador Whiteley said what matters to businesses is to do their business in a “good, clean and fair way” with a level playing field. “I think that’s the primary concern. Sometimes, political developments can have an impact on businesses.”

The diplomat made the remarks while responding to a question at a programme titled “Meet the Reporters” hosted by the Dhaka Reporters’ Unity (DRU) at its Nasrul Hamid Auditorium. DRU President Nazrul Islam Mithu and General Secretary Nurul Islam Hasib also spoke at the programme.

One of the reporters sought the Ambassador’s comments on the letter written by Ivan Stefanec, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) to Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

In reply, Ambassador Whiteley said the fact is that the letter came from an individual MEP, not from the European Parliament as a whole. “It’s not coming from the European Union Commission. It’s not coming from the European Union Council. I’ve full respect for the rights of individual MEPs to write their letters.”

He, however, declined to comment on the allegations about why this letter may have been written. “All I can say is that this is a democratically elected MEP, choosing to highlight what he considers his concerns about Bangladesh with our High Representative.”

The Ambassador said that is a perfectly normal procedure when they have a parliament with over 700 MEPs which is engaged on issues around the world. “So, it’s not an unusual thing to happen.”

The envoy mentioned that it is no surprise that an individual member of European Parliament would write such a letter.

“I’ve no information about what you’re talking about in terms of who may have supported the writing of that letter. But he’s written in his capacity as an individual Member of the European Parliament to our High Representative,” he added.

The Ambassador said when they get a letter it is their practice to always reply to that letter. “So, I’m sure the High Representative will be replying in due course.”

He did not comment on the sanctions imposed by the US saying that is a matter for the United States “But of course, we as you know, follow these developments closely. We, as the European Union, conduct our own policy on human rights and have our own engagement. So, I wouldn’t comment further on how the US chooses to conduct its foreign policy.”

The Ambassador said the EU expressed concerns about several human rights issues in Bangladesh, including an annual Human Rights Report, which is freely available online.

The European Parliament itself has adopted resolutions in the past on the human rights situation in Bangladesh, he said, adding that, “I think most recently, in 2018.”