Nepal-EU Relations: Donor-Receiver or a Mutual One


The piece is an attempt to explain the Nepal-EU relations.  In the first part, the historical context of EU-Nepal relation has been explained. It mainly focuses on the beginning of Nepal and Britain relation through military cooperation. Then, the relations developed on the onset of the emergence of global agencies have been developed. After that, other bases of relations such as international migration and EU developmental funds for Nepal and problems occurred in the relations time and again are discussed.

Nepal is a landlocked country. It is surrounded by India from three sides, i.e., East, West and south and China on remaining one side. Such set-up of the political geography of Nepal makes the country completely disconnected from Europe through Land and Water, i.e. Nepal cannot reach Europe via either land route or water route directly to Europe. However, that constraint doesn’t make Nepal and Europe completely disconnected from each other. The political geography of the existing nations, the relation between the nations on this globe and the global interdependence and compulsion of cooperation has made Europe and Nepal strong bilateral partners. Moreover, it is not only the current trend of increasing interdependence and cooperation between nations, which has brought Nepal and Europe together despite being geographical detachment and distanced but also before the current setup of global co-operation, Nepal and Europe have strong ties. Nepal and Europe have relation even before setting up of UN and WTO. Theoretically, Nepal and Europe had not built their ties only on the onset of the emergence of the era of liberalization. Nepal and Europe had ties even in the era when all the nations of the world were realists and almost all parts of this globe were hostile to each other. The ties should be thanked military co-operation from each other. Britain, one the former members of EU; was expanded over almost every corner of the world. Britain had made colonies in Africa, Asia, and America. The immediate neighbor of Nepal; India was also one of the colonies of Britain. However, it was very hard to sustain their rule in all of its colonized parts. In the case of India, there were rebellions emerging strongly. Britain was in need of military support badly to suppress the infamous “Sepoy Mutiny”, better known as Indian Mutiny; occurred by the inference of westernization in India which people of India believed would create a cast less society in their home state. This movement was led by Mangal Pandey, an East Indian Army’s soldier. As a mutual cooperator, the regime of Nepal supported Britain with military assistance. With Nepal’s military assistance, Britain became able to sustain its rule over India. However, the military cooperation between these nations didn’t stop only with crushing the Sepoy Mutiny. The military cooperation goes on further. Britain started recruiting Gorkha Army in its own army. During the Second World War, Gorkha Army fought bravely in favor of Britain. And this is how Nepal got connected to Europe. The military cooperation between Nepal and Britain is explained in detail later in this chapter.

After the end of the Second war, the world embraces a new world order. That was the order of cooperation and interdependence. United Nations had been set up. The set up of UN has helped to strengthen and to continue the ties between Nepal and Europe. Nepal and Europe stood together in the global forum of UN on many issues. Nepal and Europe, both being democratic entities, stood together on the issue of human rights, child rights, women rights and trade liberalization. Nepal and European Nations are signatories of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The ideological similarities of Nepal and Europe helped their ties remain intact. Democratic peace theory has been working here. Democratic peace is the proposition that democracies are more peaceful in their foreign relations. The democratic peace proposition has many possible empirical and theoretical forms. On the empirical side, some propose that democracies are more peaceful in their relations with all other states in the system (“monadic” democratic peace); some proposes that democracies are more peaceful only in their relations with other democracies (“dyadic” democratic peace). These two democratic political entities never become hostile to each other. They have practiced Monadic Democratic Peace since their existence of cooperation. It would not have been same if either Nepal or EU; had believed in autocracy. Let us suppose if Nepal was like North Korea, probably, the relation between Europe and Nepal had become hostile.

The emergence of liberal world order via UN; does not only made Nepal and Europe ideologically close, it also gave Nepal the opportunity to work physically inside UN and with Europeans.  Nepal has been contributing with its troops in UN peacekeeping mission. UN peacekeeping in European nations like Kosovo and Cyprus, Nepalese armies have participated as the peacekeeping force for the sake of peace and sustaining a democracy. And the role of NATO in Kosovo also involves Nepalese via British Gurkhas Army.


Read more Nepal’s Neighborhood Policy: Blueprint of Mutual Cooperation


EU in Nepal

The author had an interview with Mr. Jiwan Subedi, Political Affairs Officer of EU Delegation in Nepal, at EU delegation office, Lazimpat, Kathmandu, Nepal, where he elaborates the emerging history of Nepal-EU and point out the more areas of cooperation that Nepal- EU can have in their future:


What is the current situation of political and Economic Relations of Nepal-EU?

Well, since 2009 EU has established full-fledged diplomatic representation in Nepal. Talking about economic relations with Nepal there is not much happened till date, the economic relations of Nepal-EU still can resemble as Donor-Receiver relation. Politically, what I believe is, when a state or an organization made official representation in other states that is a political tie itself. So that, Nepal and EU are having their ties in different sectors like education, Health, Sustainability, democracy, and peace.


What are the areas of cooperation?

Nepal-EU relations have started since 1973 when Nepal was under ‘Panchayat’ system and EU was an economic coalition of western European states, functioning as European Economic Community (EEC).

As we know Human Rights, Democracy and Development are always a priority of EU since its existence so the most of the area of cooperation lies under these values. EU role in mitigating Nepal Government and Maoist insurgents and humanitarian and monetary aid throughout the Comprehensive Peace Accord is still a very significant move by the organization. Beside that EU has supported as an invigilator in both, first and second, constitutional assembly election held back in 2064 B.S and in 2070 B.S

The multi-annual plan initiated by EU back in 2007 to 2014 had more focused on Peace and Stability, Trade Capacity Development and Sustainable Energy Development. Now, EU is in its second term plan form 2015 till 2020 where its major area of focus is and will be Education, Sustainable Rural Development and Strengthening of Democracy. In addition to that, EU is a strong backer of Nepal Peace Fund along with the USA. As our post-disaster support, EU has announced 113 million Euro for Nepal reconstruction.

Similarly, in Nepal’s context, EU is initiating many third parties funding through the international organization like European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), European Commission Humanitarian Organization (ECHO), United Nation Development Project (UNDP). Where, food and security, Malnutrition and Humanitarian Aid is on priority.

And just to clarify that EU only has its interest regarding Nepal’s Development, Peace and Sustaining Democracy so it’s not nice to involve EU in controversies about Nepal’s internal policies.


Can we assume relations of EU-Nepal can rise from Donor-receiver to mutual partners?

(Laugh).., EU always has seen Nepal as its counterpart and always has a mutual partnership. Whether Nepal is not been able to reciprocate the relations objectively but EU is having unseen kind of benefits from Nepal. They get international attention and international political height regarding such kind of humbleness shown to underdeveloped states. Similarly, EU is representing 5 European Embassies from Kathmandu, Nepal and 22 Embassies from Delhi, India as one entity.

Despite the interest of EU regarding Nepal is about respecting values, values of, International Treaties, human rights, democracy, and Stability.


What could be the future prospects regarding Nepal – EU relations?

To be precise, I believe that totally depends on how Nepal can reciprocate with EU on exploring the new areas of cooperation. Among that, if Nepal is seeking mutual relations instead of seeing the relation as Donor-Receiver, then Nepal needs to create a humble environment to invite the foreign direct investment.

Political stability, respect for Human rights and international treaties, sustainability of democracy are the means which indicates that now Nepal is a place where investors can invest with no loss.

Similarly, stability in policy, administration and minimizing duty on Foreign Investment will be another vital part as well. EU is always happy to expand its economic relations with other nations. By this motto, EU has been investing in Nepal to find the prospectus areas of cooperation since long. Currently Tanahu Hydro is the only European Development project in Nepal.

However, though Nepal-EU relations has been justified as a mutual partners relation from EU side, the expertise of  Nepal still believes the relations as it Donor-Receiver relations. But still, there we could find many areas of cooperation besides donation and Humanitarian support. To some extent, Nepal has failed to create a humble environment for cooperating in the areas like economics, politics and social aspects but EU also has failed to reciprocate in well-manner.

Nepal-EU Relations

Figure 1: Nepal-EU Trade Flow

Above presented chart explains the trade relations between Nepal-EU, as we see it, of course, there is a progression but it could be the impact of an increase in the price of goods and the services.  If we again take a reference of Mr. Subedi, Political Affairs Officer of Delegates of the EU to Nepal, second term plan initiated by EU form the year of 2014 to 2020 has permanently removed Trade Development Budget from its side.


Nepalese Immigrants in EU

Nepal, a small Himalayan nation with low population, in-compare to its giant neighbors, has been supplying the working manpower to the world since long, mostly in the Middle East. Similarly, Nepal, having a very old political, diplomatic and sentimental relations with European nations, is maintaining its ties with most of the European States. In the name of academic career, many Nepalese students are seeking their future in many European nations, among them few returns to their home country. In addition to that in most of the EU nations, Nepalese are among the reliable workers in terms of security and performance basis.

Remittance can be considered as the backbone of Nepalese economy. According to World Bank, among total GDP of Nepal, 32.2% is alone covered by remittance in the year 2015, sent by those Nepalese who are working abroad. Still, Nepal Government has not been able to channelize the source of remittance, due to these factors the money earned legally by Nepalese worker abroad is been considered as an illegal money or a money laundering.  EU, while promoting its democratic value and many aspects of social rights, and Nepal together can establish a sound mechanism which can perform to stop or channelize this scenario which not only increases the income of both parties but will help those workers who are facing a turbulence while sending money to home.  While author himself was pursuing his M.A degree in Poland one of his friends, Ganesh, who was working and earning legally, shared that, “most of the time he faced the difficulties to send money to Nepal so he used alternative methods. He gives money to those students who are studying in Poland and the family of that particular student can give money to a family of Ganesh back in Nepal.” Basically, this is the criminal act but created by the unmanaged system.

Similarly, not having embassies and the representation in most of the EU nations is also a big problem to Nepalese context. So that, the problem which has been faced by the Nepalese in EU are resolved in Ad hoc basis. Whether they are neutralized by the EU government or that has been settled by Nepalese missions in EU, which somehow is a very big hassle for the Nepalese immigrants in EU. For an instant, if a Nepalese worker lost his/her passport in Poland he/she needs to contact Nepalese embassy in Berlin, Germany and fill the application and finally visit the embassy in person to submit that application. Here, he/she is not only having mental stress and a hassle but having loss of his money and time equally.


Gorkha Army: New dimension of Nepal-EU relations

“Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had a country more faithful friends than you” Sir Ralph Turner MC, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, 1931.

For 200 years, as part of British Army, Gurkha is serving as a savior to Britain. There are hundreds of casualties of Gurkha Armies in World War I and World War II. These regiments alone have achieved, most precious, 27 Victoria Cross. Article published in Telegraph to mark 200 years of cooperation between Nepal-Britain, wrote approximately 3500 Nepalese soldiers are fighting for Britain and yearly about 7000 Nepalese youngsters compete to join British Gurkha Regiments, which only select 200 soldiers a year.

Wayne Rooney, the captain of England football team, tells his co-player of Manchester United, Angela Di Maria to hire retired Gorkha Army as a security guard. The England skipper hired the Gurkha in 2010, following a spate of burglaries in the area surrounding his Cheshire home, including one on now West Brom midfielder Darren Fletcher, where his fiancée was held at knifepoint.

A club source told the news provider: “Angel’s wife Jorgelina has been left terrified by the attack and won’t go back to the rented house in Cheshire.

“Wayne has employed a Gurkha to protect his and Wes Brown’s places. Since they once had a decorated career in the Army, no one dares go anywhere near the houses.”

However, changing the dimension of relations between Gurkhas and British regime is causing turbulence time and again. While world or NATO is on war British government is more rely on Gurkhas to put them on the front but many retired soldiers have been accusing that government of Britain is not treating them as equal as they treat to British Born soldier.


Unequal Pensions

Ex-British Gurkhas have been protesting against British regime about several issues which include Unequal Pensions as well. Thousands of ex-armies and their family were gathered inform of the British parliament in demanding equal treatment as their British born counterparts, in several issues. They accused British government that they are paying Gurkhas about 400 % less than their British counterparts. The protest drags them to a stage where they returned their Victoria Cross (VC) to the administration.

“We Gurkhas are an integral part of the British national army, not mercenaries, and therefore we want the same facilities as our British counterparts,” Padam Gurung, chairman of the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen Organization (GAESO) shared his bitterness with BBC.


Right to settle

When immigration ministry of UK announced not to allow the settlement to those armies who retired before 1997, it creates a huge blow among ex-Gurkhas and finally, they came on protest with their families, some of the protest from the UK and many of them protest outside the British Embassy of Nepal.

Protest initiated by famous British artist Joanna Lumley created a huge blow within Britain which took big space in parliament as well.


read more Europe’s national security dilemmas: Who is crossing the line?



In nutshell, started with military cooperation, the relation of Nepal and Europe has been developed to political and economic cooperation.  Nepal and EU keep similar political stand when it comes to the issue of human rights and democracy.  Nepal is also helping EU by contributing its troops in UN peacekeeping mission. Similarly, immigration is an important thread, which has been an increasing people-people tie between Nepal.

Though Nepal-EU relation has a long history since decades, still the relations have not been able to pace up in the area of mutual benefits. The relations till date has been driven by the interest of values from EU side and interest of “Asking for Help” from Nepal side or simply a Donor-Receiver. EU helps regarding establishing democracy, sustaining democracy, mediation during the peace process, the role of invigilator during first and second constituent assembly election are tremendously a great job. But sustaining a charm of the relationship will be a challenge for both. If they lose the charm, every move put forward from EU side will be judged as an imposition; as we have seen the incident where the joint release of Government of India and EU on Nepal’s newly promulgated constitution has been highly criticized and accused by many scholars and academia as a bad diplomacy of them. “The Government of Nepal calls on all to fully respect the sovereign and democratic rights of the people of Nepal and refrain from making uncalled for statements, the Government and people of Nepal are fully capable of resolving their issues themselves within the framework of the constitution”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal didn’t hesitate to rely on the Joint Statement.

Besides the issues of Nepalese immigrant and the British Gurkhas, French Legion are the core issues to be settled diplomatically. These issues are seeking a safe landing otherwise it could tumble down to the end of the harmony between EU and Nepal.

However, currently world is focusing itself in trade, so Nepal-EU relations is seeking a paradigm shift from donation toward an economic cooperation. Despite the fact that Nepal is a landlocked country, there are many ways to enlarge trade relations between these parties. Mongolia could be the greatest example to this extent.



Mr Saroj Kumar Aryal

Vice President

Citizens Foundation

M.A, International Relations from University of Warsaw



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“Personal Remittances, Received (% Of GDP) | Data”. N.p., 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

Whaling, James. “Wayne Rooney Tells Angel Di Maria To Hire A Gurkha To Protect His Property”. mirror. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

“For 200 Years, The Gurkhas Have Served Britain. We Would Be Foolish To Ditch Them Now”. N.p., 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

“BBC News | South Asia | Gurkhas Protest Over Unequal Pensions”. N.p., 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2016.

EU & Nepal Cooperation. 1st ed. Kathmandu: Delegation of the European Union to Nepal, 2016. Print.

“My Republica – Nepal Strongly Objects To EU-India Statement On Constitution”. N.p., 2016. Web. 4 Sept. 2016.

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