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EU-Bhutan hold their tenth Annual Consultations

Joint Press Release

Brussels & Thimphu, 2 February 2022

The European Union (EU) and the Royal Government of Bhutan held their tenth formal Consultations in Brussels on 2 February 2022. Due to the pandemic restrictions, since 2020 meetings and visits could not be organised and 9th formal Consultations in 2020, were held virtually. 

The Consultation, which was held in a friendly atmosphere, allowed for an exchange of views on a wide range of topics of bilateral interest, confirming the excellent relations enjoyed by both partners. The EU and Bhutan reviewed their ongoing and future development cooperation within the context of Bhutan’s Five Year Plan and the new EU Global Europe NDICI regulation covering the period 2021-2027. In this regard, Bhutan presented key activities being pursued under the 12th Five Year Plan (2018-2023) and priorities for the 13th FYP, which shall ensure a smooth and successful graduation from the category of Least Developed Countries, scheduled to take place in 2023.

The EU and Bhutan discussed EU support to Bhutan under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) focusing on three priority areas – Climate Change; Green Growth and Self-reliant Bhutan; and Digital Transition: a driver for change in education and public services delivery.  The EU reaffirmed their commitment to maintain assistance equivalent to the previous MIP cycle with an amount of €31 million as the first tranche for the three-year period 2021-2024. The remaining assistance will be released after the midterm review in 2024. As the first action under the new MIP, the EU will provide support amounting to €15 million in 2022 towards sustainable Agro-Food Systems, notably by strengthening food resilience and supporting carbon-neutral development.

The EU and Bhutan expressed satisfaction with the ratification of the framework agreement between the Royal Government of Bhutan and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The agreement will pave the way for concessional financing from the EIB for development projects in Bhutan. The EIB and its development branch, EIB Global, will provide long-term financing, advisory support and blend EU grants for projects to support global climate action, climate resilience, and energy efficiency as well as contribute to long-term sustainability, resilience and competitiveness of the Bhutanese economy.

The EU reiterated its engagement in supporting Bhutan’s development plans and presented its offer to grant Bhutan greater preferential access to EU markets under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences + (GSP+) once Bhutan fulfils the necessary conditions. The EU is ready to help with the application towards a GSP+ and informed about a €1 million financial scheme, which could help the country proceed with the ratification and implementation of a number of core international conventions.

Both partners congratulated each other for the substantive cooperation enjoyed in the international fora, especially in the areas of climate action and environment protection, and discussed priorities and potential areas of cooperation ahead of the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) scheduled to take place later this year in Egypt.

The Consultations provided an opportunity for Bhutan to update the EU on developments on good governance and human rights, in particular further initiatives under taken to safeguard women and children’s rights and promote gender equality. The EU welcomed Bhutan’s decision to severely increase the penalties for rape in the Penal Code of Bhutan and appreciated the National Child Protection and Gender Based Violence COVID19 Response Plan which is being implemented by NCWC and RENEW with the help of UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP.

During the Consultations, the EU and Bhutan exchanged views on the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. The EU stressed that it remains fully committed to making the COVID-19 vaccine accessible to low and middle-income countries in a fair and equitable manner. The EU informed Bhutan of the possibility to apply to the EU Digital COVID Certificate aimed at facilitating world travel in times of COVID.

The EU presented the Global Gateway, the new EU plan for major investment in infrastructure development around the world which was launched on 1 December 2021, updating the 2018 EU-Asia Connectivity Strategy with a global geographic coverage, and which sets a target of €300 billion of investment by 2027.

The meeting was co-chaired on the EU side by Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific, Ms Paola Pampaloni and by Ambassador Pema Choden, Foreign Secretary, on the Bhutanese side. The Bhutanese delegation took the opportunity of its visit to Brussels to meet various senior representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament.

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