Increasing cooperation between the European Union and Pakistan across a broad range of issues – from foreign and security policy to development and trade - is at the essence of a new Strategic Dialogue being launched this week.
The new initiative, which will be launched by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, will oversee a 5 year engagement plan endorsed by European Union governments and Pakistan earlier this year.
Speaking ahead of her visit Mrs Ashton said “my visit to Pakistan is an expression of the EU’s support for the consolidation of democracy in the country”.
She went on to say that “the launch of the Strategic Dialogue and the Engagement Plan are a chance to strengthen relations, building on the full range of EU-Pakistan cooperation, from foreign and security policy to development and trade. We want to capitalise on the momentum in our relationship created by the special trade measures we adopted following the 2010 floods and the significant development and humanitarian assistance we have provided to the country”.
She reiterated that “we want to deepen our collaboration in many areas, including judicial reform, strengthening the democratic institutions but also work jointly on promoting regional stability and tackling extremism and terrorism.”
During her visit to Pakistan, as well as holding talks with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Mrs Ashton will also meet Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Waheed Arshad, leaders of the parliamentary opposition and the Governor of Punjab, Sardar Muhammad Latif Khan Khosa.
EU-Pakistan 5-year Engagement Plan
The engagement plan has six main chapters;
Background: The European Union and Pakistan
Pakistan’s first contacts with the European Union – or “European Economic Community” as it was then called – date back to the early 1960s. The first EU-Pakistan Cooperation Agreement was signed in 1976. Currently, the legal and political basis for the relationship between the EU and Pakistan is anchored in the 2004 Cooperation Agreement and a Five-Year Engagement Plan which was adopted in 2012.
EU-Pakistan trade worth €8.1 billion last year
As the largest trading bloc in the world and Pakistan’s top trading partner, the EU is a major economic partner for Pakistan. The overall EU-Pakistan trade volume reached €8.1 billion in 2011, up by 19% from 2009, with Pakistan enjoying €1 billion a surplus in the balance of trade with the EU.
Education support key to Development cooperation
The EU is supporting Pakistan as it strives to reach the Millennium Development Goals; that is, tackle poverty, increase literacy, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat major diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and promote an inclusive and gender balanced development process. European Union assistance to Pakistan is growing and together with Member States the annual contribution for development and humanitarian assistance has reached about €750 million per year. Education and vocational training is the single largest sector for EU funding. Thousands of boys and girls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh have improved access to schools due to EU assistance. Higher quality of curricula and text books, and more professional teachers, are among the criteria for receiving EU funding.
Support for Democracy
In support of Pakistan’s efforts to consolidate the democratic gains made since 2008 through regular, free and transparent elections, the EU is providing assistance to the electoral reform process and is also supporting the preparations for the next general elections, including the work of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
Peace and Stability
Pakistan is confronted with terrorism, militancy and sectarian violence as well as insurgencies in FATA and Balochistan, claiming over 40,000 civilian and military lives and causing huge economic losses. However, the consolidation of democratic stability across the country depends on a broad socio-economic recovery, the effective delivery of justice and security, as well as processes of empowerment and reconciliation at a local community level.
The Government of Pakistan has developed two strategies: the Malakand Comprehensive Stabilization Socio-economic Development Strategy (Malakand Strategy) and the Post Crisis Needs Assessment (PCNA), to bring stabilisation to the western border areas. The EU is actively supporting the implementation of both of these important strategies.