We are proud of our relations with the European Union: Hina

Islamabad, June 05, 2012 (PPI-OT):
Bismilla Hir Rehman Nir Raheem

Good Afternoon and Assalam-o-Alaikum to everyone.

Today, of course, it is my great honour and great pleasure to welcome Lady Ashton to much awaited visit to Islamabad. This is her first visit to Islamabad both as Lady Ashton and as the High Representative of the European Union.

I was telling her that I was following her visit since I was in service, functioning in my previous capacity as the Minister of State at the Economic Affairs Division and the Division of Finance, because we were working on what today has been launched as 5 years engagement plan. So, Lady Ashton on behalf of the President of Pakistan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the parliament of Pakistan and especially the people of Pakistan, let me welcome you and let me say that we consider our relations with the European Union to be exceptionally important.

We consider our relations with the European Union the relations which we are proud of. We believe that the European Union has walked the talk of being an external supporter because there is, of course, an internal dynamic of democracy which has to support itself before anyone else can support it. But the EU has been an external supporter of democracy and a consistent supporter of democracy.

Why I say that they have walked the talk is because every time you have a democratic dispensation within the country, the European Union has made a difference in its support to the country as in the case of Pakistan.

This particular regime is a living example of that. Within these four years we had a summit level interaction with the European Union and in 2010 we had launched the start of the much awaited strategic dialogue with Lady Ashton’s visit to Islamabad. We have talked about the content of the strategic dialogue as well but we have also talked about the 5 years Engagement Plan between European Union and Pakistan. Now, what are the various components of the strategic dialogue. First of all, it will give us an opportunity to implement the 5-year Engagement Plan.

The areas of discussion that we had today and we hope to continue them in an institutionalized manner in times to come is on security, on democracy, on governance, on human rights issues between the two country and on socio economic development. The European Union has been a strong supporter of, on trade and investment that the European Union has been an even stronger supporter of, on energy, education and migration issues.

We hope that we can transform from today this very essentially multifaceted relationship into a long term relationship which works out for the benefit of the people of Pakistan and the residents of the European Union. Now I would want to go into each one of those areas specifically.

Let me first bring your attention to the fact that the European Union has been the largest trading partner of Pakstan and, and that, of course, puts an emphasis on where this relationship has been moving. We trade with them in large numbers. The total exports with the European Union are about 4.6 billion Euros and our total imports from them are about 3.7 billion Euros, taking the total trading figure to about 8.3 billion Euros.

So there are 25% of our total exports which are going to the European Union and about 11% of Pakistan’s total imports are coming from European Union. So, you can see the strong trade linkages that we have with them. And I am happy to share with you that since 2001 in the last decade for instance, the trade with them has increased by a happy 77% and clearly we have a long way to go.

Let me explain you that they are an extremely important development partner. And let me share with you that in the three years development programme which they have from 2011 to 2013, which we call the Multi Year Indicative Programme, we have about 225 million Euros which is spent in development partnership in Pakistan, across the different regions of Pakistan, particularly in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

What is even more important is the areas where that is spent for the economic development. Let me also say that as somebody who has looked after the Pakistani bilateral assistance portfolio for many years. When I met Lady Ashton about two years back from today in that capacity I spoke to her about the need to support the system that is in place trying to get as much funding through the system rather than outside of the system so that it is sustainable. So that it is likely to support the system rather than subvert the system.

I am very happy to announce today that the European Union has always heard and responded to what Pakistan has been saying. Today at least 55% of the total assistance comes from the European Union is coming through government channel. It means that it is going to the most vulnerable people because it remains the state’s responsibility to look after the most vulnerable people. Now, what we want to lay a particular emphasis on as I was telling the High Representative that you are a happy example that I use with every other region because they responded to the one request that Pakistan had. We, President Zardari, Prime Minister Gillani and his government have repeatedly represented the case that if Pakistan is the country which has suffered at hands of militancy, if Pakistan is the country which has almost sacrificed its today for the tomorrow of the region, for being an enabler of peace and stability in the region that we have an economic loss of close to 70 billion dollars.

We have lost 30,000 civilians to the bomb attacks and the firing of the extremist and militants inside Pakistani territory that we have lost 6,000 troops both military and para military fighting to this scourge. That if we recognize all these sacrifices that Pakistan has made some willingly and some unwillingly then the only thing we expect from this world is to recognize it through preferential market access.

We want to create some positive spill over out of it. We want to make some positive opportunities for our people emphasizing that the world is recognizing our great sacrifices and the world is doing it its way. So, when we make this case, guess who listens the European Union. So, after the floods of 2010 when President Zardari was in London to make the case that Pakistan needs preferential market access rather than assistance. As a response to that, the European Union went through creating the Autonomous Trade Preferences, the ATP, for Pakistan’s specific market access mechanism.

They gave our products, our textiles the preferential market access. Having gone through the entire market process, having gone through the WTO waiver that is required we are very close to the final implementation mode.

We also owed Pakistan’s GSP plus access very darely and we are told that there is very positive movement in that also. That hopefully in the years to come Pakistan will be able to benefit from GSP plus which again translate into preferential market access for Pakistani products into the European markets which translates into direct creation of jobs and into direct creation of opportunities and this is the kind of opportunity and Pakistan seeks from the world more than assistance.

So, Lady Ashton to you and to the entire European parliament because each one has an important role to play and the Council let me convey on behalf of the people of Pakistan the deepest appreciation for the listening to the words of the people of Pakistan and for responding to the voices of the people of Pakistan. I hope that we will as we go forward, will be able to institutionalize the European Union-Pakistan summit level dialogue.

We are as we work to develop to create a substance, we hope that Pakistan and European Union will work on that Free Trade Agreement soon. With this Lady Ashton just let me say that the European Union has been a good partner to Pakistan in many many different areas.

The interaction that we have had in discussing the regional issues the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Pakistan’s role as an enabler and facilitator and Pakistan’s keen desire in whatever ways is possible an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned completely Afghan backed reconciliation process to continue our role for peace and stability in Afghanistan. With those words let me once again Lady Ashton welcome you and invite for your remarks.

Statement by Lady Baroness Catherine Ashton

Thank you very much indeed, it is truly a great honour to be here for my first official visit to Pakistan. I can’t believe I was not stopping over here before and it is a great delight to be here and specially working with Minister Khar. She has the energy of 20 and you just heard from her list of copy.

It is a great delight working with her. And I know how much in role of her international work for the people of Pakistan, how much she seeks to achieve for this country. I am also very well aware of the challenges Pakistan faces and the sacrifices that have been made by Pakistan as the Minister has said, so many people have lost their lives, so many families have been devastated by what has happened to this country first in terms of the terrorist activities and then the floods took place.

I remember very well the remarks of the Secretary General of the United Nations when he was here and he visited flood-ridden areas that much devastation had been faced by this country. It is a great delight that I am here today in a very positive moment to launch a strategic dialogue and an engaging plan for five years deliberately assigned to cover the whole range of areas what Pakistan and European Union cover together, can collaborate, can establish together a deeper relationship.

They would help us to engage in some of the important issues of this country but also the issues that concerns us. I think the discussions we just had were truly excellent I believe we covered incredible multi grand in a short time. For the dialogue that we continue throughout the year through senior officials meetings through our exchanges whatsoever if I might say that this encompasses so many issues.

Now I want to say again that EU will continue its support for this country and what happened after the floods, the humanitarian assistance by the EU and member states. We gained 423 million Euros. It is a great figure which I say is to put together to show that how much we care for what is happening in this country and we are the biggest humanitarian donor in Pakistan because we believe that it is so important to recognize that the development is very important for the people of this country and the role of Pakistan is good to the people of the whole region.

I hope this engagement enables us for what I call a well rented relationship, a relationship in the past was built on development, was built on trade. Now, the strategic dialogue enables us not only to talk about trade but also the political security issue on the forefront. The you, Minister, and I are not only engaged in a bilateral relationship across the world but we are discussing the issues which directly affect us and which are global and again I am absolutely sure that we can do more together about the issues in the different parts of the world. Now, again coming back to this relationship we want to work for the long term.

We want to support your economy, we want to consolidate your democracy and to play a constructive role with you in this region. I also talk about the policy planning and economics, the people in this country that the education they want, the energy they need and it is very very important for us to help to consolidate a strong democracy.

We do recognize the challenges this country is facing as I have said and this is the reason for which I am here. But this is also the reason after I was very proud to host the Friends of Democratic Pakistan in Brussels.

We were very proud that we already had serious presidential engagements and I am also extremely pleased to have the honour of meeting the Prime Minister this morning. So, more than anything my presence here says herald to demonstrate that how important we believe this country is, to pay tribute to the work which is going on, to support the people of Pakistan and acknowledge the sacrifices which have been made. And to more than that the European Union will continue being the strong and reliable partner in future. Thank you.

Q and A Session

Q: My question for High Representative – European Union has always been very vocal about the progress, reforms and human rights issues in Pakistan. What is the current status on these issues and most of your members are the part of the coalition forces in Afghanistan. Have you talked to your counterpart here about the reopening of cocked ground lines of communication?

A. On the second part of your question I would say that I am not here to deal with it. On the issue of human rights, I believe patiently in showing that the human rights are core to development of any country.

I often say that not that the human rights apply to you, you simply have to be human and hear. We had good discussions about it this morning and supposedly we talked about empowerment of women that the girls should be highly educated in any country and we need to continue to this journey in all possible ways. It is a journey that all countries are engaged with and it is very important that how we work together as a part of this journey.

Q. My question is from both of you. My first question is to the Foreign Minister – how much financially can Pakistan benefit if actually the autonomous trade agreement with EU is finally implemented and is it included in the GSP in any figure that how much Pakistan will be benefitted and my question to Lady Ashton is that you said that EU is aware of the sacrifices Pakistan has made in terms of human lives and infrastructure. Do you support Pakistan’s stance on the important issues like an apology from the US on the Salalah Check-post incident and the money Pakistan demands for opening of GLOC?

A. Foreign Minister: I will respond to this question in terms of economic benefits as Pakistan believes that preferential trade agreement is more than the dollars for Pakistan as it gets. For instance, in the case of the Autonomous Trade Preferences the ATPs, the dollar amount may be 200 million dollars, but the opportunities it can create worth much much more than that.

The same way in the GSP plus, if we get the preferential market access then the type of opportunities it can create for us in the system in creating many many more jobs is multifold. So that is why we always prefer trade over aid because it creates opportunities which then create a momentum that pays more in terms of jobs and opportunities.

High Representative: My focus to this visit is on the relations between European Union and Pakistan. The relationship between the partners to work with and to deal with is not for me. It is to recognize the opportunities as the Foreign Minister said will create for the country. This preferential trade agreement is to what we can offer in terms of opportunities and job creation in terms of trade and its all to support the economy which I believe in future will not only benefit just the people of Pakistan but also the people of European Union.

Q. Both the Excellencies have talked about the democracy as the part of the strategic dialogue and the five years engagement plan. My question to Foreign Minister is that the European Union election observers gave certain recommendations in 2008 elections were these recommendations fulfilled by Pakistan especially in a year when we see transition in this country where people will be having the opportunity for the first time to change the government of Pakistan and my question to Her Excellency Lady Ashton is that practically two years have already passed when this waiver was given to the Pakistan on 70+ items and practically one year is left. So, do you think the objectives set for this waiver are still valid and they will provide the opportunities to the people of Pakistan as they were meant to be at that time?

A. Foreign Minister: Can I also comment on the human rights issue also though I have not been asked the question because we had intensive dialogue on the human rights issue with Lady Ashton and as you know that United Nations High Commissioner is also visiting Pakistan and I also had a very intensive dialogue with her as well yesterday. What Pakistan is saying is very simple. And Pakistan is saying that Pakistan has many challenges like the other many other developing countries inside the region and outside the region.

It is in the economic sphere and it is in the terms that every Pakistani is enjoying their constitutional rights. Now having recognized that we have to see that Pakistan as a nation, which direction Pakistan is marching towards, is it marching towards the direction of ensuring more human rights or not.

So the independent human rights commission which has recently been set up, the legislation which has been done for that, the immense legislation which has been done for the women empowerment, the legislation for instance, on acid crime, the legislation on harassment on workplace, the legislation for women and minorities to get quota within the administration and we are seeing that we are working in the right direction.

These legislations are to guarantee human rights you have societies as in the developed countries they have guarantees of human rights so we are very unapologetic about the directions Pakistan is pursuing with, we are very aware, we are humbled by the challenges we are facing but we are staring them in the face, we are looking them in the eyes.

I am very proud of the great work parliament has done for the legislation for the human rights. Now, I want to say about the Election Commission, the 20th Amendment with the parliament of Pakistan, there are lot of political parties which are not agreeing with each other. Now, what does it show, it shows that for the first time Pakistan is showing the signs of what Lady Ashton has described as deep democracy, the democracy which is sustainable and which the system the institutions and the parties all are enduring with and they create a robust mechanism for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner. Now, a sitting government would not like to do that. But this is a government which believes in the values, democracy, teaches and it is in the long term interest of Pakistan. Now responding about the recommendations by the European Union, about the Election Commission, I would say that most of the recommendations have been followed and implemented.

The question of invitation is not for the government to determine, it is for the Election Commissioner to determine which has to welcome observers from anywhere that we do and achieve together the commitment to the free and fair elections.

For more information, contact:
Syed Haider Ali Jafri
Personal Secretary
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 921 0335 and 9056604

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