Q&A: The new European Union (EU) ambassador to Bhutan, Tomasz Kozlowski, spoke with Kuensel’s Gyalsten K Dorji on cooperation between Bhutan and the EU. From 1982-2014, the EU has contributed more than Euro 90 million to Bhutan.
What are your initial impressions of Bhutan?
I’m really impressed with your country’s nature and hospitality of your people. I’m really looking forward to visiting Bhutan more often during my tenure and to strengthen and consolidate my personal relations with the Bhutanese people, and at the same time, of course to strengthen relations between the EU and Bhutan.
Cooperation has expanded. What further areas are being explored?
My assessment is that EU-Bhutan relations are flourishing. The EU perceives Bhutan as an important partner and we’re happy that the PM of Bhutan, for the first time in history, visited Brussels in 2015.
We’ve a regular dialogue on political issues, on bilateral cooperation and the last round of such dialogue happened in November. I will convey this message to His Majesty The King and the Prime Minister, and other members of parliament that the EU is determined to continue good cooperation with Bhutan and to further develop our relationship.
We’re determined to contribute further to the implementation of your very ambitious economic and social plans. The EU decided to triple developmental assistance to Bhutan. We’re in the process of implementing this assistance.
There are three main areas of cooperation: sustainable agriculture and forest development support for governance decentralization, and of course, we’re always interested in the development of civil society. But at the same time we’ve adjusted our approach to our cooperation with Bhutan. Now we’ve less project based assistance and are focused on budget support.
When might the EU release the first tranche of committed funds?
There are certain procedures and rules, which have to be followed, that’s why we’re working together with the government of Bhutan to prepare proper programmes and projects to be adopted by both sides. We already received your contributions, documents, which were worked out with support provided by a consultant we sent to your country. Now we’re analyzing all these papers, and we hope that the final implementation financial decisions will be taken by the end of the first quarter of this year.
Any areas of concerns regarding project implementation here?
No, we don’t have concerns. Sometimes we feel that the Bhutanese government’s capacities to produce programmes and projects according to our formal requirements are a bit delayed. That’s why last year and this year, we’ve dispatched or we will dispatch to Bhutan, at least four technical experts which will help your administration to prepare all these documents.
With expanding ties, does the EU feel the need for an embassy here?
We, as the EU, provide a lot of assistance to a lot of countries all over the world and in our actions we want to be effective and efficient as much as possible. We try to keep administrative costs of our assistance as low as possible. That’s why we don’t have plans now to establish an office here.
My delegation in New Delhi and myself as accredited ambassador to Bhutan, are in touch with your government here, with your civil society. Our intention is to continue as it has been so far because the channels of communications have proved to be effective and efficient. We try not to spread out our offices.