The European Union (EU) committed to continue its support to Bhutan and will diversify its support to the country beyond 2023.

The Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) of the EU, Stefano Manservisi said, “Bhutan is graduating from the Least developed countries (LDC) group in 2023, but this would not imply disengagement in any way or decrease in our commitment in the country.”

The Directorate-General was in the country on a three-day visit with a six-member delegation to update on the country’s priorities and adapt their assistance. He delegation met with Lyonchhen, Cabinet ministers and other senior officials.

The EU also supported Bhutan’s bid for the graduation and the time extension to prepare for it at the UN.

Bhutan’s graduation will not result any reduction in support from the European Union, he said.

“Our support in terms of funds is to accompany the transition of the country for consolidation of macro-economic situation, agriculture and rural development, building the capacity of the civil society organisations, and good governance both at the local and central levels, ” the director general said.

He said that the delegation discussed key challenges and new vulnerabilities that Bhutan would face after graduating. The discussions also covered assistance in drinking and irrigation water, health care, employment, infrastructure, agriculture, also facilitating investment in the country in small and mediums enterprises such as startups.

“We’re happy to continue working with Bhutan in improving the services delivery to the citizens of the country,” he said.

“On behalf of the Union, I congratulate the people and government on the successful elections and the transition.”

He said after four decades of excellent cooperation between Bhutan and the EU and the relations between the two remain intense and good, and aligned with regards to challenges such as climate change.

The EU has projects worth about Euro 80 million.

The EU is one of the three main development partners and the government attaches importance to its relations with the EU.  The EU has assured its continued support to Bhutan beyond the current multi-annual indicative programme MIP (2014-2020).

The total EU assistance to Bhutan for the 2014-2020 multi-annual indicative programme (MIP) period is Euro 51 million.

The delegation was in the country especially in the context of the next multi-annual indicative programme (MIO), 2021-2027 to discuss and understand Bhutan’s needs at a time when MIP 2021-2027 is under negotiation.

Another delegation will visit in March to attend a conference to learn more about the government’s plans and tune their assistance accordingly, Stefano Manserisi said.

Stefano Manserisi is in charge and responsible for EU’s development cooperation policy. DEVCO is responsible for designing European international cooperation and development policy and delivering aid throughout the world.

Formal diplomatic relations between Bhutan and the EU were established on August 9, 1985.

Tshering Palden