European Union's foreign and security policy chief Catherine Ashton – AFP (File Photo)

The European Union's foreign and security policy chief Catherine Ashton will launch a "strategic dialogue" with Pakistan during a visit to Islamabad on June 5-6.  Dawn senior correspondent Shada Islam asked Ashton to explain EU-Pakistan relations:

Q. Why are you going to Pakistan now?

A. I have wanted to visit Pakistan since I took office in order to underscore how important I believe the EU-Pakistan relationship is; and to personally offer Europe's support in overcoming many of Pakistan's challenges. This visit is the culmination of a number of contacts I have had with the Pakistani leadership. In addition, 2012 marks the adoption of a major new engagement plan, and the start of a strategic dialogue as the EU-Pakistan relationship graduates to the next level. Coincidentally this year also marks 50 years since the start of EU-Pakistan cooperation activities. So it is an important occasion for us.

Much has happened over these 50 years, but crucially two years ago, European leaders agreed to upgrade the EU-Pakistan link, shifting what has been a traditional, more trade-oriented relationship to one that is more political. My visit is part of implementing that upgrade - a fitting way to celebrate our milestone of cooperation

Q. What is Pakistan’s place in the EU’s Asia strategy?

A. We have an important and long-standing economic and developmental relationship with Pakistan and its neighbours. Pakistan plays a crucial role in helping the region overcome some of its security-related challenges as well as seizing the opportunities – especially the economic opportunities - that should be obvious to everyone. One of our key objectives for Asia is to help the countries of Southern and Central Asia to cooperate in the interests of their future security and prosperity.

To give just a few examples, we have recently proposed to the Pakistani authorities Action Plans to counter violent extremism and support rule of law and access to justice while a forthcoming visit to Islamabad by the European Commission will discuss how to tackle migration and organised crime.

Q. Pakistan often seen through the “Afghanistan prism” rather than as a stand-alone priority for the EU.  Is this going to change?

A. Some may see Pakistan in this way. But the way I look at Pakistan is very different. Europe has an important relationship with Pakistan in its own right, going back over 50 years. Whether the issue is our mutual security, the joint effort to tackle drug-trafficking, the drive to increase commerce or to meet the Millennium Development Goals, Europe's relationship with Pakistan is crucial.

At the same time it is undeniable that Pakistan has an interest in and would benefit enormously from Afghanistan's stabilisation.  It should be our common aim to promote a secure Afghanistan and a prosperous region as a whole. During my visit I will discuss with the Pakistani authorities the importance of everyone doing their utmost to facilitate the process of ensuring peace, security and development in Afghanistan.

Q. The security situation in Pakistan remains fragile:  Is there a role for the EU (through increased political and security discussions with Pakistan) to help fight terrorism, improve the situation of minorities etc.

A. I am keen for the EU to develop a broader kind of relationship with Pakistan that also allows for a dialogue on a range of security issues. The EU is not just a trade partner, but is a policy partner. As part of our upgraded engagement with Pakistan, we are therefore focused on finding ways to collaborate on rule of law, counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation.

But to ensure stability, Pakistan must invest further in what I have called "deep democracy": accountability, respect for the rule of law, and protection of human rights. Elections are important, and civilian government is a prerequisite for democracy. But in themselves, these are insufficient conditions for democracy to be established and stability to develop. As we have done before, the EU will continue to offer support in building a deeper Pakistani democracy.

Q. Relations with India are improving: can the EU help foster closer cooperation e.g. in trade?

A. Pakistan and India are making efforts to improve relations and the measures to liberalise trade between the two nations should go a long way to improve regional ties. These questions are discussed by the EU bilaterally with both countries. . It is very important that the rapprochement is supported by all stakeholders.Closer understanding between them is vital for the future of the region as a whole.

Q. Pakistan wants better access to EU textiles market – the GSP waiver is still pending.  Will Pakistan have access to GSP plus?

A. The EU is Pakistan’s single largest trading partner, accounting for 22 per cent of Pakistan’s external trade. The EU has already taken the unprecedented step of obtaining a WTO waiver for Pakistan, following the dreadful floods, and this will help Pakistan gain greater access to our markets. Pakistan has already benefitted substantially from GSP for some years. On the issue of the new GSP regulation, discussions are currently underway. Pakistan will have an opportunity to apply for the enhanced GSP+ preferences if the conditions for the new regime are met. These conditions refer to international conventions on human rights, labour rights environment, and good governance.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Brussels.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (27)

Cyrus Howell
June 5, 2012 4:23 pm
GREAT BOOK. Everyone should read it.
June 7, 2012 12:32 pm
The main problem with Pakistan is its proven record about lying. They must get over it
Baba Sidni
June 5, 2012 11:10 pm
Including those my dear, who got the important job of giving advice and not acting on it.
Baba Sidni
June 5, 2012 11:12 pm
And then what? Another East India company?
waleed khan
June 5, 2012 7:46 pm
it is all a apart of NATO supply route tragedy by involving EU.its all rubbish.first of all we have to get rid of our corrupt leadership.
June 7, 2012 11:47 am
However rosy a picture Madam Ashton may want to portray all ominous signs point to a total breakdwon of relations with the US (which has already occured) followed by hostilities. Watch my words it will start when Pakistan shoots down a couple of drones, or shells Nato positions across the Afghan border. Anyone who has watched a Youtube analysis titled "PAKISTAN and 2012" by a well known astrologer who has predicted some disastrous times for Pak both internally (due to ethnic tensions) and externally (due to US-Pak) can see the writing on the wall, even if they don't believe in astrology! Remember the predictions were made in 2009.
Cyrus Howell
June 7, 2012 2:49 am
"Afghan intelligence on Wednesday accused Pakistani spies of poisoning Afghan schoolgirls."
June 7, 2012 11:57 am
Some notable statements from Ms.Ashton. You decide if they make sense to you: a) "Pakistan plays a crucial role in helping the region overcome some of its security-related challenges as well as seizing the opportunities – especially the economic opportunities – that should be obvious to everyone." Really Maam? b) "it is undeniable that Pakistan has an interest in and benefit enormously from Afghanistan’s stabilisation." Benefit enormously - Quite true. Interest: Not sure. Given that Pakistan never wants a role for the moderate Northern Alliance, while supporting the hardline, medieval Taliban. c) "European Commission will discuss how to tackle migration and organised crime." Any wonder the EU has finally taken note of this given the largescale organized illegal immigration via the ME, Turkey into Italy, Greece, Malta & the rest of the EU. Nobody can disagree with her on the rest of the assertions incl. need for strengthening democratic forces, rule of law, minority rights, realtions with India etc.
June 5, 2012 6:10 pm
Completely agree… but no one is going to admit. Our success is in unity as One Nation. How can we achieve it, I believe we all know the answer. Think – IQRA – Think again
June 5, 2012 5:21 pm
She doesn,t talk of a new world order for now but she does offer new tricks and new deception and tyring to lure pakistan deeper in to trouble.
June 5, 2012 1:48 pm
Indeed, EU and US are not different in any way. Their policies and views are common and the way they see Pakistan won't change until and unless Pakistan opens NATO' transit roots to Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, her visit to Pakistan would add more pressure on Pakistani leaders. Will these Higher secondary leaders succumb...??? Let's see..!
Cyrus Howell
June 7, 2012 12:37 pm
“We are reaching the limits of our patience here (US secretary of defense) Panetta said that in talks with Pakistan, the United States had made “very clear, time and time again,” the need to crack down on Haqqani militants. Afghan and US officials have blamed the Haqqani network for some of the deadliest attacks of the 10-year war, including a brazen 18-hour assault on Kabul in April — the biggest to hit the Afghan capital in a decade. Independent analysts have suggested that Pakistan is not capable of defeating the Haqqanis, a well organized and disciplined force that can command thousands of fighters.
June 6, 2012 2:13 am
Many of us are used to thinking that a single foreign entity such as the EU or a single domestic entity such as Imran Khan will solve our problems and get us out of the quagmire we are in. We forget that the only entity whose help we should seek and the only entity that can bring about a positive change is the Almighty Supreme Allah swt. And many of us who are cogniznat of this tend to forget that Allah swt will not bring about positive change if we dont make an effort to change ourselves. As long as we continue to not follow His comandments, lie, cheat, take and give bribes, steal electricity, selfishly hold on to our possession and wealth, only think about ourselves or those within our circle, etc.etc. our situation cannot improve.
Mehtab Khan
June 6, 2012 1:26 am
I agree with A Bajwa . Education, education, and education alone is the way to get rid of corrupt leadership and make Pakistan improve its socio economic conditions; and then it could ultimately find a respectable place in the comity of nations.
June 6, 2012 12:17 am
Relations with EU and USA float in the same pond. If they go down with USA, they go down with EU. conversly if the go up with EU, they go up with USA. And NATO is another name of USA+EU+Turkey.
June 5, 2012 8:53 pm
Pakistan has not learn there lesson in past twice Pakistan help the world first they help the USA against Russia then more then 3 Millions Afghans Refugee poor in to Pakistan. Pakistan is a poor country and they are still in Pakistan now they are the Afghans is Pakistan #1 enemy and blaming Pakistan for Afghans problem No 2 now in the last 12 years Pakistan not only help the western country but also destroyed there own economy and lost tens of thousand of there Army and civilians in the end Pakistan is a terrorist state by US Europeans,Afghan's,India so they all use Pakistan as a escape Goat and Now EU the funny thing is that non of these countries wants to do any business with Pakistan and yet they telling Pakistan is our friend?
June 5, 2012 6:08 pm
Its a welcome move, It would Pakistan an opportunity to make its point of view Clear, Its a developing society with an Open media therefore please bear with us few Odds . We The PEOPLE of Pakistan have suffered due to war on terror and needs to be encouraged RATHER then pressurized by our friends
June 5, 2012 1:23 pm
start of EU pressure on pakistan influenced by nato partners......... at the end both US an EU will cut ties........
Gregory Jumiah
June 5, 2012 1:03 pm
Pakistan needs to learn to 'stand-alone'. Your people have lots of talent. You need to rid the country of corrupt rulers forever, who serve the interests of foreign countries, especially the USA at the expense of their own people and the country. I wish you all well in achieving that goal.
M. Asghar
June 5, 2012 12:46 pm
This partnership with the EU is a goog thing, but nothing will help the country, if it does clean its house first in all the domains.
June 5, 2012 12:44 pm
EU is Pakistan's friend -- US is Pakistan's friend -- even India wants to be Pakistan's friend -- if only the Pakistanis read Dale Carnegie classic book -- " How To Make Friends and Influence People". The trouble is -- the Pakistanis are not Pakistan's best friends.
June 5, 2012 12:16 pm
Given Pakistan's deteriorating relations with US a strategic alliance with EU is imperative. The kind of agreements India is developing with US would be good models. A major plank should be to allow EU, particularly British educational institutions to set up their campsis in Pakistan, particularly Law, Economics etc.
June 5, 2012 3:24 pm
Pakistan should hold tight and protect Gairiyath or honor; the west would capitulate. They have no choice.
June 5, 2012 3:17 pm
We should not get taken in by sweet talk. This lady's arrival is intended as a pincer movement to build further pressure. No need to be swayed by the sugar coating on a very bitter pill.
June 5, 2012 2:47 pm
lets put new power plants lets put new mills, lets put up new factories lets export stop fighting stop hate
June 5, 2012 2:05 pm
Pakistan should focus on winning more and more foreign direct investment from EU. Economic distress is the root cause of all evils and a part of it can also be attributed to the poor policies of our incapable and incompetent leadership. For personal gains, they've been serving the interests of other nations while ignoring the dismal plight of our own people. Now that the visit of European Union’s foreign and security policy chief is on the cards, Pakistan's leaders should avail this opportunity by ensuring closer future ties with EU and engaging into dialogues that could ultimately flourish into favourable outcomes regarding security, terrorism, economy, trade, balance of power in South Asia and last but not the least improvementt of Pakistan's image in international community.
June 5, 2012 6:14 pm
US and EU are the same. If Pakistan is well on its way to loosing US as its ally and trading partner, EU won't be far behind.
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