Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski walk following a joint press briefing in Islamabad.—AFP

ISLAMABAD: The European Union pressed on Pakistan on Monday to speed up its reforms programme as the two sides agreed on a number of measures, more notably the launching of Strategic Dialogue later this year, to bolster their ties.

“The ministers looked forward to a reinforced political dialogue, at all levels, early completion of an ambitious EU–Pakistan Five-Year Engagement Plan and the launching of the Strategic Dialogue leading to the third EU-Pakistan Summit,” a joint statement issued after a meeting between Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski, who visited Pakistan as a representative of Lady Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security.

Lady Ashton would visit Pakistan for the Strategic Dialogue, whose dates would be fixed later through diplomatic channels.

The Strategic Dialogue is expected to follow a meeting of Joint Commission (JC) – the Pak-EU forum that discusses promotion of economic relations and other issues such as governance, human rights, migration, development cooperation and science and technology. The meeting of JC is scheduled for November.

These meetings would then lead to this year’s summit, which has already been delayed and could move to early next year.

A source said that while expressing the EU’s desire for stronger relations, the visiting delegation underscored Brussels’ concerns about security, human rights and the poor progress on reforms plan and urged Islamabad to address them.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in his meeting with the visiting Polish foreign minister, said: “Pakistan is keenly looking forward to the next Pakistan-EU Summit that could be held in Islamabad, which would greatly facilitate in developing closer linkages with the European Union.”

Notwithstanding commitments from Brussels for strengthening the relationship, what particularly interested Pakistani leaders was a pledge to consider Pakistan for preferential trade concessions – GSP + -- from 2014.

An EU plan to give Pakistan time-limited trade concessions ran into problems at the World Trade Organisation because of objections from India. The European leaders are now looking at the GSP+ as an alternative and the process for according GSP+ status to Pakistan would commence next year.

President Zardari in his meeting with the Polish minister stressed for an early commencement of negotiations for EU-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement.

Mr Sikorski in discussions with Pakistani interlocutors talked about the prosecution of the killers of Polish geologist Piotr StaDczak, who was kidnapped and beheaded in 2009.

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