Vice President of the European Parliament, Evelyn Regner with Bhutan Time’s Sr. Reporter Sonam Penjor about the EU support for Bhutan and the future plans and programs
- What are the areas where the European Union (EU) supports Bhutan, and what are the plans for future?
Ans: The EU invested to support Bhutan’s economic diversification and look at what kind of textile and agricultural products can be produced for larger markets, as well as products for the wellness and luxury industries. We are currently reflecting on the support given to Bhutan, and we have the pleasure of having a delegation from the EU parliament to participate in the proceedings.
We observed a few projects; this was something expected, and the money was wisely spent.
It was moving in the direction of the diversification on the digitalization we had envisaged. Bhutan has done a terrific job in this regard.
We are the only members of the EU parliament with the power to oversee the budget. We collaborate closely with the commission to develop excellent proposals and programs before deciding on the budget. We are here at present to see the latest agreement for future support and a 15-million-euro investment.
Among others, we advocate for climate change and sustainable agriculture. Since capacity building through government and CSO makes democracy generally robust, we are also funding projects that deal with enhancing democracy.
2. How can Bhutan and the EU parliament create a robust democracy based on the concept of the rule of law?
Ans: There are various methods. Political parties are most likely one of them. You now have information and facts, which is highly significant. Data and facts are scarce commodities. They need to do their homework and have solid information. As a result, we provide financial support to CSOs that conduct trainings that increase the likelihood that democracy would prevail in the legislature.
As an illustration, before passing legislation in the EU Parliament, we frequently did this. We hold hearings, invite the participants to discuss their issues and talk about the wisdom of the experience. We must take comprehensive photos. Here in Bhutan, we can see that things are improving.
3. Voter education has always been a challenge given that our democracy is still in its infancy. Could the EU fund any of the initiatives related to this?
Ans: When analizing political parties, CSOs, individuals, and members of parliament, they demonstrate a strong desire to learn, grow, listen, and consider what it means to Bhutan. While something done in Europe might be good for that continent, Bhutan has its own traditions.
The Parliamentarians use techniques and instruments including hearings and impact assessments that contrast the front research effort for voter education. There are many research projects. However, while making an assessment, always consider what the research will mean for the population’s future.
4. Though women make 46.79 percent (2021) of our population, they only represent less than 15 percent of our lawmakers. How can the European Union parliament encourage more participation?
Ans: We include quotas for businesses and company boards in EU legislation. Therefore, in the future, corporation boards must use objective standards that will serve as legally obligatory guidelines for powerful women.
Most member states’ party election methods denote a “one man, one woman” candidate system in politics. Bhutan can therefore act as an EU member committed to ensuring that diversity is respected for society to succeed. Bhutan must, of course, come to its own conclusions.
5. How can cooperation between Bhutan and the EU be strengthened in terms of knowledge exchange and communication plan development?
Ans: The vibrant interaction would continue. Young Bhutanese students are studying in European Union nations and are bringing a lot of the information back to their home country. Hopefully, we will also have the chance to improve communication among parliamentarians.
6. Since Bhutan is geared to graduate from LDC to middle income country by 2023, will the EU continue to support Bhutan?
Ans: Even if Bhutan transitions from being a low-income country to a middle-income country, we are quite open and prepared to continue our good economic cooperation. Bhutan will have to determine whether to rectify such agreements. Bhutan is what we are waiting for, and now it is up to Bhutan to decide.