Home POLITICS Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, on her country’s growing relationship with the EU

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, on her country’s growing relationship with the EU

by gary cartwright
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Sheikh Hasina
Political assasination is a heinous crime. The perpetrators, from Marcus Junius Brutus through John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Kalaivani Rajaratnam and Tetsuya Yamagami are reviled, and will likely remain so for ever.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Few such crimes, however, can match the cold-blooded murder of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh, Father of The Nation, on the night of August 15th 1975.

On that fateful day, the President was ambushed by army officers in his own home and murdered in cold blood along with his wife, three sons, two daughters-in-law, and a host of other relatives. 

The only survivors of his family were his daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, who were travelling in Europe at the time.

This fateful night came just four years after a turbulent period in the young nation’s history – Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan on March 26th 1971. A nine-month long blood-soaked War of Liberation followed. Pounded by war crimes and genocide committed by the ruthless forces of Pakistan, costing 3 million lives and violation of 200 thousand women, the nation finally became victorious on December 16th 1971.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had left a legacy to his young nation in his elder daughter, Sheikh Hasina.

In 1996 she became Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the first time, serving for five years before being re-elected in 2008, 2014 and 2018, making her the longest serving Prime Minister in her country’s history.

Sheikh Hasina is also President of The Awami League, the political party founded by her father, and which he led during Bangladesh’s fight for independence.

Under her guidance Bangladesh has prospered – its GDP growth currently exceeds that of the EU, UK, and the United States.

Millions of citizens have been taken out of poverty and the country enjoys stability in all area, social and economic.

“For Bangladesh, the EU is our trusted trade, development, and humanitarian partner. We have fruitful cooperation in security, climate change, and human mobility. Our shared values and commitments remain at the heart of our engagements with the EU,” Sheikh Hasina told delegates at the opening of the Global Gateway 2023 conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

She continued, “Today, we officially launched negotiations on a bilateral partnership and cooperation agreement. We signed a landmark contract with EIB for a 350 million-euro loan for investment in renewable energy. On this 50th anniversary of Bangladesh-EU relations, I reaffirm our commitment to further strengthen our strategic engagements.

On this 50th anniversary of Bangladesh-EU relations, I reaffirm our commitment to further strengthen our strategic engagements.”

 She emphasised, “Bangladesh is now the world’s 35th largest economy. Our 70-billion-dollar economy has grown into 465 billion in less than 15 years. We have lifted millions of our people out of poverty. Extreme poverty has come down to 5.6% from 25.1% in 2006. Bangladesh is set to graduate from UN LDC status in 2026.

Our government has moved in a planned way to ensure food security, universal school enrolment, community-based healthcare, safe water and sanitation, cost-free housing, rural communication, disaster resilience, climate adaptation, 100% electricity coverage, nation-wide internet, industrial growth, infrastructure development, and, most importantly, women’s empowerment. We have decided to move from climate vulnerability to resilience and prosperity.”

Sheikh Hasina

Sheikh Hasina pictured with her late father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Sheikh Hasina spoke movingly about her late father, sharing with delegates some personal memories. She also spoke of his vision for Bangladesh.

My father, the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, wanted to see Bangladesh as a regional bridge-builder. With 170 million people, we are strategically located between South and Southeast Asia. Bangladesh has the potential to become a trading hub for 3 billion consumers in the region.

Our road, rail, and port infrastructure is being built as part of regional economic corridors. We have constructed the Padma Multi-Purpose Bridge with our own resources. We have offered access to the Bay of Bengal to the land-linked territories of Nepal, Bhutan, and Northeast India. Our airports can serve as gateways between the East and the West.

Connectivity is a common binding factor between Bangladesh and the EU in our Indo-Pacific outlooks.”

Connectivity is also a binding factor between the past and the future. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s high ambitions for Bangladesh can only be fulfilled if the country maintains its current level of stability: upcoming elections will see The Awami League facing challenges from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, described as recently as 2021 by the United States Court of Appeals as a Tier III terrorist organization.  

“Human connectivity is the lifeline for peace and progress. We must put an end to wars, conflicts, and the arms race. We need to prepare better for future crises. We must restore faith in mutual respect and understanding among nations,” said Sheikh Hasina.

We hope to see the Global Gateway as a great connector for lasting peace and sustainable development.

We appreciate the Global Gateway’s focus on transport networks, health security, green energy, digital transformation, research, and innovation. We seek the EU’s continued trade preferences for our smooth LDC graduation.

“Our dynamic young population is ready to join the EU’s skills and talent partnership programmes. We trust the Global Gateway will help realise our vision for a ‘Smart Bangladesh’ by 2041.”

Click here for more articles on Bangladesh at EU Today

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