EU-Pakistan joint commission reaffirms to broaden relationship
ISLAMABAD – The European Union-Pakistan Joint Commission in its meeting held in Brussels has reaffirmed its relationship encompassing a broad range of areas, including substantial growth in the bilateral trade.
The sixth meeting of the EU-Pakistan Joint Commission was held on Wednesday under the co-chairmanship of Secretary Commerce Muhammad Shehzad Arbab from Pakistan side and on the EU-side, Ugo Astuto, Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific, European External Action Service.
The two sides discussed progress made as well as outstanding issues in the implementation of the EU-Pakistan 5-year Engagement Plan, encompassing a broad range of areas, including political dialogue, security and counter-terrorism, human rights, migration, trade and development cooperation.
The growing economic ties were discussed and the two sides took note of the considerable increase in bilateral trade in 2014 while stressing that further opportunities for trade and investment between the EU and Pakistan should be explored in order to create growth and jobs. They emphasized the role of the private sector and agreed to explore possibilities to strengthen the dialogue between Pakistan and European Union (EU) businesses community. They noted that the main factor behind the increase in Pakistan’s exports to the EU was the award of GSP plus.
The joint commission is the main forum to review the implementation of the EU-Pakistan 5-year Engagement Plan, which was adopted in 2012. With the common goal of building a partnership for peace and development rooted in shared values, principles and commitments, the plan aims to promote cooperation and expand the partnership between the EU and Pakistan on a wide range of issues.
The commission also discussed issues in the field of human rights, minorities and women’s rights and the EU welcomed the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission and called for its active engagement.
On election reforms, the EU welcomed the reform process underway by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and confirmed its commitment to support further strengthening and deepening of democracy in Pakistan. It reiterated its commitment to offer technical assistance to the ECP and the federal and provincial assemblies.
While appreciating progress made in the field of labour rights, the EU called for stepping up efforts on implementing international commitments on human rights as embedded in the GSP plus obligations. In response to EU requests for tangible progress on a number of issues, Pakistan reiterated its commitment to continue implementation of the 27 international conventions covered by the scheme.
On security and counter terrorism, they took note of the EU-Pakistan dialogue held in February 2015 and expressed their commitment to international cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They also agreed to explore ways of strengthening bilateral cooperation, initiatives and exchange of best practices in areas such as criminal justice and rule of law, law enforcement/security, countering financing of terrorism and countering violent extremism. The EU side noted the seriousness of the terrorist threat faced by Pakistan and acknowledged its efforts to counter it.
The two sides agreed to hold the next meeting of the EU-Pakistan Dialogue on Disarmament and Non-proliferation on December 9, 2015 in Brussels.
The two sides discussed preparations for the 21st Conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris and pledged to work together towards reaching an ambitious, comprehensive, equitable and binding UN climate agreement. They also agreed on concrete steps to be taken in order to explore opportunities for further cooperation in the field of energy, including working toward a dedicated Energy Dialogue.
On migration, they welcomed the meeting of the Joint Readmission Committee in June 2015 and agreed to strengthen efforts to ensure full implementation of the EU-Pakistan readmission agreement. On development cooperation, implementation of ongoing programmes and the new EU Multi annual Indicative Programme (MIP) for 2014-20 were discussed.
Under the new MIP, the EU has committed to provide assistance to Pakistan amounting to EURO 653 million to support rural development; education; and good governance, human rights and rule of law. They also agreed to explore further the potential for cooperation on science and technology under the Horizon 2020 programme and highlighted opportunities for cooperation on higher education.
The two sides also agreed to explore the possibility of new initiatives in anti-narcotics and water management, especially floods. They also discussed regional political developments, including the situation in Afghanistan and the region. The next meeting of the Joint Commission will be held in Islamabad in 2016.
The meetings of the three sub-groups were also held. The trade subgroup was co-chaired by European Commission’s Deputy Head of Trade Diana Acconcia and Additional Secretary Ministry of Commerce Robina Athar. The sub-group on governance and human rights was co-chaired by European External Action Service’s Head Anette Mandler and Additional Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nadeem Riyaz.
The sub-group on development and cooperation was co-chaired by Jorge De La Cabelleria and Additional Secretary Economic Affairs Division Ministry of Finance.Anjum Assad Amin.