Delegation: The European Union (EU) is working on releasing 20M (million) euros of the 42M it committed by the end of this year or beginning 2016, cooperation manager, Karine Olislagers, one of the members of the EU delegation, who are in the country, said yesterday.

Last October, the EU tripled its assistance from 14M to 42M euros for Bhutan’s efforts towards poverty reduction, food security and democratisation.

EU non-resident ambassador to Bhutan, Joao Cravinho, said the amount was increased because of its good experience with Bhutan, even though the EU was decreasing its support in other parts of the world.

The ambassador said the committed funds would be released within the 11th Plan and that Bhutan could count on the EU’s friendship for its developmental aspirations.

He said Bhutan should continue along the path that it has been on for the last seven years, which the EU admires and respects deeply. “Bhutan can count on the EU’s friendship in this process,” he said.

The ambassador’s visit to Bhutan was also to prepare the visit of Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay to Brussels next month.  He said the first visit to  the EU headquarters by a Bhutanese prime minister would be a landmark visit.

“I’m very much looking forward to this landmark visit.” He said the prime minister would be in Brussels on June 3 and 4, where he will meet with a number of visiting prime ministers, including the prime minister of Luxemburg.

The ambassador said that the EU was interested to discuss with the prime minister on the progress of the development partnership, take stock of what the EU has been doing, look at the political nature of the relationship, and chart plans for the next few years.

“It’s looking back and looking forward and there’s a lot of interest in Brussels for that,” he said.

Meanwhile, since the EU has financially supported the establishment of the meat processing unit, ambassador Joao Cravinho said he respected the “slaughter house debate” that was ongoing in the country.

Such debates, he said, were healthy in a society. “If the conclusion is yes, that’s great. If the conclusion is no, that’s great.”

The ambassador said the EU’s support for local government is important, as it is part of the process of deepening democracy in the country.  The EU is supporting local government in two ways – financially and in terms of capacity building.

On strengthening the EU-Bhutan relations, Joao Cravinho said the EU was not keen on establishing its mission in Bhutan any soon.

At the moment, the ambassador said the EU was not increasing its diplomatic representations, as there were budgetary constraints. “At the same time, our relation with Bhutan is becoming strong and deep.”

The recent visit to Bhutan, he said, was also to introduce Bhutan to some of his colleagues.  Ambassador of Luxemburg to India, Sam Andre Auguste Schreiner, and ambassador of Latvia to India, Avers Groza, have accompanied the ambassador to Bhutan.

By MB Subba