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KARACHI: Ambassador Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Pakistan Jean-Francois Cautain has said that the EU-Pakistan Five Year Engagement Plan is proof of a confident relationship between the EU and Pakistan.

Speaking at the programme arranged by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan at the Beach Luxury Hotel on Tuesday, he also said that the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus granted to Pakistan by the EU in 2014 had been very successful in building ties.

“We may have several issues such as migration, human trafficking, etc, but we are working with Pakistan to tackle all that. We need to look at legal ways of migration. We also need to fight smugglers together,” he said. “But after GSP Plus, Pakistan’s exports have gone up by 38 per cent,” he said. “The EU provides the GSP Plus facility to 10 countries including Pakistan,” he added.

‘Issues of Kashmir and human rights abuses there need to be dealt with by Pakistan and India on their own’

“The EU also provides Official Development Assistance, or ODA, funds to Pakistan, especially for education,” Mr Cautain said, adding that this was his third visit to Pakistan. “Earlier, I was here working with an NGO in Peshawar. Pakistan is a country that I appreciate and love.”

Speaking a bit about the EU and where it stood in the world today, he said that the number of states comprising EU were still 28. “The UK is still there,” he said, adding that the change would take place in 2019. He said that the EU was sad to be losing UK but politicians should not be blaming the EU for their own national failures. He also said that the EU was not a project of the past that had lost its ambition. “The ambition is still very much there. EU remains the best tool to strengthen sovereignty. With the USA’s collapse of ambition, we work on climate change, human rights, building peace amid hostility, stability of borders and we are still the largest global market, and we will continue to play a key role in trade. We are capable of producing one-quarter of the world’s wealth,” he said.

“The EU works at building bridges between its nations for lasting peace. But even if you have peace you don’t take it for granted,” he said. “From Syria in the Middle East to India there are refugees in search of safe harbours,” he said. “In the last several months, a number of countries have approached the EU, seeking cooperation and a sense of direction while the US takes a back seat in such endeavours. We have given 75 billion euros for human assistance,” he said.

Answering a question about why Turkey was still not a part of the EU, the ambassador said that Turkey needed to meet EU’s standards in mode of government and fundamental values to be able to be a part of the EU.

In reply to another question regarding Rohingya Muslims in Mayanmar, he said it was a tragedy. “The issue is close to our heart and we are looking into solutions,” he said.

When asked about why the EU doesn’t persuade India to sit with Pakistan to discuss Kashmir, he said that he was not sure in what capacity the EU could help here. “The issue of Kashmir and human rights issues there need to be dealt with by Pakistan and India on their own,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2017