Apparel export to EU up 14.3% during July-February of FY23
The European Union's (EU) apparel imports from Bangladesh saw 14.29 percent growth during the first eight months of fiscal 2022-23, $15.72 billion from $13.75 billion in July-February FY22, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB). Germany being the largest European market fetched $4.62 billion, marking a 1.03 percent negative growth compared to the same period of the previous year. Apparel exports to France and Spain rose by 27.65 percent ($1.89 billion) and 18.79 percent (2.35 billion), respectively. However, exports to Bulgaria and Poland showed 51.21 percent and 15.06 percent year-on-year negative growth. "During the mentioned period, our exports to the US fell by 2.87 percent year-on-year. However, apparel exports to Canada and the UK saw 20.05 percent and 14.52 percent year-on-year growth, respectively," Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Director Md Mohiuddin Rubel said. "During the first eight months of FY23, our exports to the US, the UK and Canada were $5.68 billion, $3.36 billion, and $980 million, respectively," he added. "At the same time, exports to the non-traditional markets increased by 35.02 percent to $5.69 billion. Among the major non-traditional markets, our exports to Japan, Australia, India and South Korea reached $1.07 billion, $767.75 million, $753.92 million and $387.63 million, respectively," Rubel said. Also read: 2022 was a year of turning around: BGMEA
In the EU’s inflation crisis, the humble egg takes the cake
The humble egg has become a star performer for all the wrong reasons as inflation has hit households across the European Union extremely hard over the year. The EU's statistical agency Eurostat announced Friday that the average price of an egg — that important staple for poor families and gourmet cooks alike — had risen by 30% over the year to January 2023, becoming a symbol of how the cost of living has hit everyone in the 27-nation bloc. Even if the latest inflation figures show that annual inflation in the 20-nation eurozone has started to decline to 8.5% in February, the sector of food, alcohol and tobacco continued to rise and stood at 15%. Also Read: European inflation eases for 3rd month but prices still bite And then, eggs outperform just about all. Two years ago, egg inflation still stood at a lean 1%, rising to 7% the year after before reaching 30% in February. Egg prices were whipped up the most in the Czech Republic, rising 85% over the year, followed closely by two other central European nations — Hungary (80%) and Slovakia (79%). Germany and Luxembourg stood at the other end, with both experiencing a relatively lower increase of 18%. In the United States, egg prices have surged over the past year because of the ongoing bird flu outbreak and the highest inflation in decades. The national average retail price of a dozen eggs hit $4.25 in December, up from $1.79 a year earlier, according to the latest government data.
Rohingya crisis not forgotten: EU high representative
High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has assured of the international organisation's continuous humanitarian support to deal with the needs of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh. "This crisis is not forgotten. The EU remains one of the largest humanitarian donors, with €287 million since 2017," he said after his meeting with State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam in New Delhi on Friday. Also Read: Food rationing for Rohingyas a 'matter of life and death': UN expert They discussed today's global crises – climate change and vulnerabilities of the LDCs as well as the Rohingya refugees hosted by Bangladesh. "Great to meet Josep Borrell, high representative of foreign affairs of the EU, to talk about the bilateral relationship and world affairs, including the Rohingya crisis," said Shahriar.
EU+ saw 1 million asylum applications, including record 34,000 from Bangladeshis, in 2022
In 2022, EU+ countries received some 966,000 applications, including 34, 000 from Bangladeshis, for international protection, up more than 50 percent from 2021, and the most since 2016, according to the new analysis of the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA). The largest applicant groups were Syrians, Afghans and Turks, but applications were also high for a wide range of other nationalities, while the caseload of applications pending decision hit its highest level since 2017. The EUAA analysis represents a significant increase in 2021, by around half, and is owed in part to the removal of Covid-related restrictions and longer-term underlying trends such as conflicts and food insecurity in many regions of origin, resulting in strong push factors. Furthermore, secondary movements within the EU and significant numbers of applications by nationals from visa-free countries who arrived legally contributed as well. It comes in addition to around 4 million people fleeing Ukraine who benefit from temporary protection. In activating the Temporary Protection Directive, the decision to offer a dedicated channel that does not require an individual examination of protection needs prevented the collapse of Europe's asylum systems. However, the combined five million people seeking protection in Europe have placed its national reception systems under considerable pressure. Syrians (132,000) and Afghans (129,000) remained by far the largest applicant groups, and nationals of both countries lodged substantially more applications than in 2021, in fact, the most since 2016. The EUAA recently issued Country Guidance on Syria and Afghanistan, with conclusions largely substantiating the protection needs of Syrian nationals, and finding inter alia that restrictions placed on Afghan women by the Taliban amount to persecution. With more than doubling numbers, Turkish applicants (55,000) became the third largest group. They were followed by Venezuelans (51,000) and Colombians (43, 000), who both lodged about three times as many applications as in 2021. Read more: Apparel export to EU grew 15.04 % during July-Jan of FY23 Turks, Venezuelans, Colombians, Bangladeshis (34,000), and Georgians (29,000) all applied the most on record. At lower levels, record applications were also lodged by citizens of India (26,000), Morocco (22,000), Tunisia (21,000), Egypt (15, 000), Moldova (8,300), and several others. In 2022, EU+ asylum authorities issued some 632,000 decisions at first instance, up by a fifth from 2021.However, applications increased by far more – in fact outnumbering them by about 333,000 – resulting in the largest gap since 2015. It largely translated into an increase in pending cases at first instance. At the end of the year, some 636, 000 cases were awaiting a decision at first instance, a 44 percent increase compared to 2021. The EU+ recognition rate was 40 percent in 2022, up by five percentage points from 2021 and the most in five years. Of the two-in-five applicants receiving a positive decision at first instance, around 147 000 were granted refugee status and 106 000 received subsidiary protection. Recognition rates were especially high for Syrians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Eritreans, Yemenis, and Malians. In contrast, recognition rates were especially low for citizens of India, North Macedonia, Moldova, Vietnam, Tunisia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Nepal among others. Equipped with a strengthened mandate to support the implementation of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), in 2022 the Agency substantially increased its technical and operational support. The number of countries benefiting from the EUAA Operational Support has quadrupled to 13 EU member states since just 2019, with over 1,500 deployed personnel. The agency is also providing support in a third country, Moldova.
Serbia, Kosovo leaders weigh EU proposals to improve ties
The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo are holding talks on Monday on European Union proposals aimed at ending a long series of political crises and setting the two on the path to better relations and ultimately mutual recognition. Tensions have simmered between Serbia and its former territory since Kosovo unilaterally broke away in 2008; a move recognized by many Western countries but opposed by Serbia, with the backing of Russia and China. Recently, those tensions flared over seemingly trivial matters like vehicle license plate formats, or the arrest of an ethnic Serb police officer, triggering renewed concern among Western leaders that a new Balkan conflict might break out just as Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its second year. At meetings in Brussels, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti are expected to discuss ways to put the European proposals into action. Both leaders have already discussed the plan, which hasn't been made public, and EU officials are confident of progress. A senior EU official said before the talks that “we need to break the vicious circle of crisis.” He said the proposals are “not the end of the road” when it comes to normalizing ties between Belgrade and Pristina, but that given recent tensions, the EU plan is the “maximum achievable at this point.” The official briefed reporters on the condition that he not be named because of the highly sensitive nature of the meetings. Previous talks between Vucic and Kurti have degenerated into arguments and mutual recrimination, but this time both leaders have already endorsed the proposals “in principle,” he said. Vucic said Sunday, before the meetings supervised by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, that he’s “ready to work on the concept and implementation of the proposed plan with clearly defined limitations.” Also Read: Greece plane crash: Cargo aircraft was carrying weapons to Bangladesh : Serbian minister He didn't specify the “limitations,” but he has repeatedly said that they include the refusal to recognize Kosovo as an independent state as well as agree to it becoming a U.N. member. The EU has mediated negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo since 2011, but few of the 33 agreements that have been signed were put into action. The EU and the U.S. have pressed for faster progress since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. Earlier this month, hundreds of Serbian nationalists gathered in Belgrade to demand that Vucic reject the EU plan and pull out of the talks. Shouting “Treason” and carrying banners reading “No surrender,” the right-wing protesters blocked traffic as they gathered near the Serbian presidency building. The protesters are also strongly pro-Russia, and one banner read: “Betrayal of Kosovo is betrayal of Russia!” In recent months, U.S. and EU envoys have visited Pristina and Belgrade regularly to encourage them to accept the new proposals, and the two leaders met with senior EU representatives on the sidelines of a major security conference in the German city of Munich earlier this month.
EU slaps sanctions on top Russia officials, banks, trade
The European Union agreed Saturday to impose new sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine targeting more officials and organizations accused of supporting the war, spreading propaganda or supplying drones, as well as restricting trade on products that could be used by the armed forces. The EU’s Swedish presidency said the sanctions "are directed at military and political decision-makers, companies supporting or working within the Russian military industry, and commanders in the Wagner Group. Transactions with some of Russia’s largest banks are also prohibited.” Asset freezes were slapped on three more Russian banks and seven Iranian “entities” — companies, agencies, political parties or other organizations — that manufacture military drones, which the EU suspects have been used by Russia during the war. The new measures, proposed by the EU’s executive branch three weeks ago, were only adopted after much internal wrangling over their exact make-up, and made public one day after the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — the intended target date. The delay, which was minor but symbolically important, is yet more evidence of how difficult it has become for the 27-nation bloc to identify new targets for restrictive measures that are acceptable to all member nations. Read More: Nearly 1 million asylum requests in the EU in 2022 The sanctions are meant to undermine Russia’s economy and drain funds for its war effort, but they are also increasingly inflicting pain on European economies already hit by high inflation and energy prices and still suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before this latest round of measures, the EU had already targeted almost 1,400 Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, government ministers, lawmakers and oligarchs believed loyal to the Kremlin, but also officers believed responsible for war crimes or targeting civilian infrastructure. The bloc had also frozen the assets of more than 170 organizations, ranging from political parties and paramilitary groups to banks, private companies and media outlets accused of spreading pro-Kremlin propaganda. Russia’s energy sector was hit, too — notably oil and coal — and the bloc, through its own measures and political decisions combined with retaliation from Moscow, was rapidly weaned off its dependence on Russian natural gas. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the new package in his nightly address on Saturday. “Sanctions will continue to be introduced so that nothing remains of the potential of Russian aggression,” he said. “There are new sanctions steps in the 10th package, powerful ones, against the defense industry and the financial sector of the terrorist state and against the propagandists who drowned Russian society in lies and are trying to spread their lies onto the whole world,” Zelenskyy said.
China, EU should strengthen cooperation: Chinese diplomat
Faced with a world of change and disorder, China and Europe should strengthen cooperation to inject more stability into the world, Wang Yi, a senior Chinese diplomat, said on Saturday. Wang, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks when meeting with the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell during the 59th Munich Security Conference. Wang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, said that China and the EU are partners, not rivals, and their consensus far outweighs their differences. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU. Both sides should remain committed to the partnership, respect each other's core interests, cherish the fruits of cooperation, and usher in an even better next two decades, he noted. Also Read: Blinken: China’s balloon incursion ‘must never happen again’ China has successfully pulled through a pandemic and is ready to fully restart exchanges with Europe and the rest of the world, Wang said. He suggested that the two sides may actively prepare for a new China-EU leaders' meeting, make full use of high-level dialogue mechanisms in various fields, and bring bilateral exchanges back to pre-epidemic levels as soon as possible. The essence of China-EU economic and trade relations is complementary and mutually beneficial. Both sides should maintain openness and cooperation, resist decoupling, and work together to maintain the stability of the global production and supply chain, Wang said. Wang expressed the hope that the EU and its members abide by the one-China principle and maintain the political foundation of China-EU relations. Borrell said that the European side has always been promoting EU-China relations in a mature and candid manner, stressing that the EU firmly upholds the one-China policy, recognizes the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government representing the whole of China, supports China's efforts to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will translate the principle into the political relations between the EU and China. The EU hopes to strengthen high-level exchanges with China and promote cooperation in various fields, which benefits not only Europe and China but also the entire world, Borrell said. The EU side is willing to work with China to prepare for the next meeting between EU and Chinese leadership for in-depth exchanges of views on issues of common interest, said Borrell. On the Ukraine crisis, Wang stressed that the Chinese side adheres to promoting peace talks and is willing to strengthen communication with the EU, making consistent efforts toward a political settlement.
EU missions urge non-violent political process
The European Union (EU) and its member state missions in Dhaka have "strongly" encouraged all those engaged in political activities to conduct them in a "peaceful and lawful" manner. The EU and EU member state missions expressed "deep" concerns about the recent reports of "politically motivated" violence. The EU Embassy in Dhaka tweeted this brief message Sunday. Read more: AL out to create chaos with counter programmes: BNP
EU, Beijing heading for collision over China’s COVID crisis
The European Union and China on Tuesday moved closer to a political standoff over the COVID-19 crisis, with Beijing vehemently rejecting travel restrictions some EU nations have started to impose that could well be expanded in coming days. An EU offer of help, including vaccine donations, was also as good as slapped down, with Beijing insisting the situation was “under control” and medical provisions “in adequate supply,” government spokesperson Mao Ning said. And as the 27-nation bloc was moving closer to imposing some sort of restrictions on travelers from China, Beijing clearly laid out what to expect in return. “We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the COVID measures for political purposes and will take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity,” Mao said. Still, the EU seemed bent on taking some sort of joint action to ensure incoming passengers from China would not transmit any potential new variants on to the continent. “Travelers from China need to be prepared for decisions being taken at short notice,” Sweden, which holds the EU presidency, warned in a statement. Several member nations announced individual efforts over the past week. At the same time, the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control insisted that the situation in China didn’t pose an immediate overall health threat. “The variants circulating in China are already circulating in the EU, and as such are not challenging for the immune response” of EU citizens, it said in its latest impact study published Tuesday. Other scientists have also said limits on travel would have little impact on containing the disease, but they also insisted on the value of looking for potential variants not in Europe at the moment. Read more: Beijing threatens response to ‘unacceptable’ virus measures Yet fearful not to be caught unawares like at the outset of the global pandemic in early 2020, medical experts from EU member states were already preparing potential action to be taken up by an Integrated Political Crisis Response meeting on Wednesday, where measure like EU-wide entry requirements could be decided. Over the past week, EU nations reacted in a chaotic cascade of national measures to the crisis in China, disregarding an earlier commitment to act in unity before anything else. Italy was the first EU member in requiring coronavirus tests for airline passengers coming from China, but several others have said such measures might not be the best option to protect local populations since new variants now coming from China have already been around in Europe, often for many months. France, Spain and Italy have already announced independent measures to implement tougher COVID-19 rules for passengers arriving from China. France’s government is requiring negative tests, and is urging French citizens to avoid nonessential travel to China. France is also reintroducing mask requirements on flights from China to France. Spain’s government said it would require all air passengers coming from China to have negative tests or proof of vaccination. Read more: China to resume issuing passports, visas as virus curbs ease The United States announced new COVID-19 testing requirements Wednesday for all travelers from China, joining some Asian nations that had imposed restrictions because of a surge of infections.
Croatia rings in New Year as fully integrated EU member
At the stroke of midnight on Saturday, Croatia switched to the shared European currency, the euro, and removed dozens of border checkpoints to join the world’s largest passport-free travel area. It marked a fresh start for the small Balkan nation of 4 million people that captured international attention three decades ago as the site of a brutal war that left nearly a quarter of its economy in ruins. Joining Europe's ID-check-free Schengen zone means Croats will now be among almost 420 million people who are free to roam its 27 member countries without passports for work or leisure. Adopting the euro will likewise offer Croatia the benefits stemming from deeper financial ties with the currency’s 19 other users and with the European Central Bank. It will also make traveling and doing business easier, removing the hassle of currency exchange for Croats going abroad and for tens of thousands of tourists who visit their country each year for work or to enjoy its stunning Adriatic coastline. Read more: Amazon to make big business changes in EU settlement As revelers around Croatia took to the streets to ring in the New Year, the country’s interior minister, Davor Bozinovic, was at the Bregana border crossing with Slovenia to wish the best of luck to the last travelers to have their passports checked there. Slovenia has been a part of the Schengen zone and tasked with safeguarding its external frontier since 2007. Now, the task will be taken over by Croatia, which will continue to apply strict border controls on its eastern borders with non-EU neighbors Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro. “We opened our doors to borderless Europe. This goes beyond eliminating border controls, it is the final affirmation of our European identity,” Bozinovic said after watching the ramps at the Bregana border crossing being lifted for the final time in the company of his Slovenian counterpart Sanja Ajanovic-Hovnik. Stipica Mandic, a 72-year-old professional driver, shared the sentiment and said the freedom of movement without long waits at border crossings was his personal dream and the reason why he left a New Year’s Eve party at his home and drove 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) to Bregana to see it come true. “I spent years of my life waiting at border checkpoints, so I came here tonight to witness this moment, the moment after which I will wait no more,” he said. Read more: EU member countries reach compromise on gas price cap At about the same time, shortly after midnight, Croatia’s finance minister and central bank governor walked to an ATM in the capital, Zagreb, to withdraw euro banknotes and symbolically relegate Croatia's old national currency, the kuna, to history. Croatia joined the EU in 2013, but to adopt the euro the country had to fulfil a set of strict economic conditions, including having a stable exchange rate, controlled inflation and sound public spending. The Croatian kuna and the euro will be in dual use for cash payments for only 14 days, but as people shop post-holiday in January they will receive only euros in change. The New Year’s Eve developments were described by many Croats as proof their country has completed a difficult journey to the European mainstream 31 years after it fought a war for independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia in which 20,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. “We used to dream about this and I am happy that we lived to see it happen,” said Zlatko Leko, a resident of the port city of Split in the country’s south. “I hope this means we are finally a part of Europe." Elenmari Pletikos-Solon in Zagreb agreed: “We have already been a part of Europe, but dismantling the borders and switching to the euro is the final confirmation that we are fully integrated” with the European Union. “I am truly happy. It will make many things in our life much easier,” she added.