Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Bangladesh

Delivered in Plenary - April 14th 2005

Mr President

About a third of this poor, over-populated but democratic country of 140 million people is landless and forced to live on, and cultivate, flood-prone land. Traditionally the majority Muslim population has lived peacefully with other religious minorities, and Bangladesh has a good record on education and civil rights for women. The majority BNP Government, in power since 2001, has particular problems with economic reform as it is often blocked by political in-fighting and corruption. Matters are not helped by the current boycott of parliamentary dialogue by the Awami League opposition.

There have been attacks on opposition figures, that is true, but the authorities to their credit have arrested eight suspects, in spite of them being part of the ruling party coalition, and two radical Islamist groups have recently been banned. Bangladesh also protests at India’s understandable attempts to fence off the porous international border which is subject to contraband, including illegal drug smuggling.

One encouraging note is that growth has been steady at 5% for the past few years, but Bangladesh now feels threatened by unlimited Chinese textile exports. We in the European Union need to be patient and give Bangladesh every political and financial support, encourage good governance and the fight against corruption and Islamic fundamentalism.

I call upon the House to support my amendments to produce a more balanced resolution.