The 11th Annual Consultations between the Royal Government of Bhutan and the European Union took place in Thimphu on 5 May. They had a productive and friendly exchange of views on a broad range of topics and noted with satisfaction that Bhutan – EU relations have gained positive political momentum with high-level visits and meetings. The EU and Bhutan reiterated their support for a rules-based international order with the UN at its core.
During the Consultations, Bhutan and the EU shared updates on political and economic developments, in the context of Bhutan’s graduation from LDC category in 2023, and on good governance and human rights.
The EU welcomed Bhutan’s ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its subsidiary protocol on Trafficking in Persons (TIP), and invited Bhutan to consider the signature and ratification of a number of core international conventions, notably in the areas of human and labour rights. The EU informed about the launching of a new programme of €3.5 million in support of CSOs in Bhutan.
The EU and Bhutan discussed the EU’s support for Bhutan under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP), which focuses on three priority areas: Climate Change and Green Growth for a resilient Bhutan; Good Governance for inclusive socio-economic development; with Digital Transition as a driver for change in education and public service delivery. These areas are covered with an amount of €31 million allocated for the period 2021-2024. In the margins of the Consultations, Bhutan and the EU signed a new Financing Agreement worth €9.3 million to strengthen Bhutan local governance and digitalization in education. In September 2022, a first programme worth €15 million was launched to support sustainable agro-food systems.
Bhutan and the EU expressed satisfaction with the recent visit of the Prime Minister of Bhutan to the European Union headquarters in Brussels as well as the European Investment Bank (EIB) in Luxembourg. They both expressed their support for EIB investments in renewable energy projects in Bhutan.
The EU welcomed Bhutan’s accession to the Framework Agreement on the Establishment of the International Solar Alliance (ISA). Both partners commended their substantive cooperation in international fora, particularly in the areas of climate action and environmental protection, and discussed priorities and potential areas of cooperation ahead of COP28, including building an ambitious alliance for stronger global mitigation action and increased adaptation finance.
During the Consultations, the EU and Bhutan exchanged views on the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bhutan’s next development plan. The EU updated on the implementation of the Global Gateway, the EU’s overarching offer to partner countries for a wide-ranging partnership based on mutual interests. It is aimed at identifying quality resilient infrastructure investments and supporting an enabling environment in key areas of socio-economic development, including climate change, energy, transport, education and health, where the EU can present value added know-how and technology for increased connectivity between countries and people. In this context, the EU presented different financing tools, including the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+).
The Consultations were co-chaired by Ambassador Pema Choden, Foreign Secretary, and Ms. Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific, European External Action Service on the EU side. The EU delegation took the opportunity of its visit to meet with senior officials of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the National Assembly of Bhutan and civil society.