Strategic dialogue: For market access, stem human rights abuse, says EU
By Kamran Yousaf
ISLAMABAD: In what seems to be a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, the European Union (EU) has rolled out certain demands if Pakistan wants its products get duty-free access to the 27-member bloc’s markets.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton – during the launch of a ‘strategic dialogue’ between Pakistan and the EU on Tuesday – urged Islamabad to improve its human rights credentials and abolish the death penalty, diplomatic sources revealed.
The Pakistani side was led by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani at the high-level moot meant to boost cooperation including trade and economic ties. Islamabad is currently engaged with the EU to finalise the Generalised System of Preferences-plus regime seeking duty free access for all its products.
However, a senior EU official told The Express Tribune that Pakistan’s qualification for the GSP-plus is directly linked to its human rights record.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official confirmed that the issue did come up for discussions during talks between the EU high representative and the Pakistani leadership.
“The talks went well but the EU has concerns on certain human rights issues including the death penalty,” the diplomat pointed out.
At a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Khar, the EU foreign policy chief said human rights abuses was one of the key issues for the member countries.
“I believe that human rights are crucial for the development of any country,” she remarked.
“We had good discussions about it this morning and we talked about empowerment of women, [for instance] that girls should be highly educated in any country and we need to continue this journey in all possible ways.”
Pakistan is among the countries which has retained capital punishment; though not a single person has been executed since the Pakistan Peoples Party took charge of the government in 2008.
A joint statement issued by the foreign ministry said Pakistan and the EU reaffirmed their shared commitment to work together to combat terrorism.
Ashton expressed appreciation for the enormous sacrifices made by the people of Pakistan in fighting terrorism and extremism.
In order to enhance the existing cooperation on counter-terrorism, the two sides agreed to the establishment of a Pakistan-EU steering committee as well.
When asked, the EU foreign policy chief attempted to distance herself from the ongoing deadlock between Pakistan and the US over the resumption of Nato supplies.
A participant of the strategic dialogue said the Pakistani side did brief the EU delegation about the ongoing talks with the US. “Lady Ashton was in a listening mood and she didn’t take sides when Pakistani authorities briefed her about the issue,” said a diplomatic source dispelling impressions that the EU was mediating between Islamabad and Washington.
Meanwhile, the two sides agreed that the second round of the Pakistan-EU Strategic Dialogue would be held in Brussels at mutually convenient dates next year.