An eight-member European Union delegation has arrived here to discuss political situation with heads of political parties in the context of coming general elections. The delegation will issue a report regarding the country’s political situation ahead of general elections in light of its discussions with the political leaders.
The delegation said this is “our routine, and our reports were also published regarding 2002, 2008 and 2013 general elections”. European Union delegation comprises Nicolay Paus, Ms Ann Vanhout, Jean Costedoat, Hans Weber, Ms Hannah Theresa Roberts, Colm Vincent Fahy, Pawel Kryztof and Svante Torgny Yngrot.
The members of the delegation called on Pakistan Muslim League-Q President and former Prime Minister Ch Shujat Hussain and former Chief Minister Punjab Ch Pervez Elahi here on Sunday. The PML-Q leaders put forth proposals for holding of fair and transparent election in future and alleged that 2013 general elections were rigged through Returning Officers (ROs).
Ch Shujat Hussain and Ch Pervez Elahi said that 22 other political parties which took part in the 2013 elections also alleged that the officers who conducted the polls were involved in rigging. They expressed the hope that the Election Commission of Pakistan and Foreign Office will fully cooperate and facilitate the European Union Observation Mission in reparation of its report as EU is very important for Pakistan.
During the meeting, party leaders Senator Kamil Ali Agha, Dr Khalid Ranjha, Moonis Elahi, Salik Hussain and Rizwan Mumtaz Ali were also present. It is worth mentioning that the EU accounts for 20% of Pakistani external trade with Pakistani exports to the EU amounting to €3.4 billion, (mainly textiles, medical equipment and leather products) and EU exports to Pakistan amounting to €3.8 billion mainly mechanical and electrical equipment, and chemical and pharmaceutical products. 
The European Union (EU) has recently extended Pakistan’s Generalized System of Preferences plus (GSP-Plus) status for another three years after the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade expressed satisfaction on the progress achieved by the country in enacting new laws for implementation of the 27 conventions related to human and labor rights.
The GSP Plus status, granted from January 2014, permitted nearly 20 percent of Pakistani exports to enter the 28-member countries of EU bloc at zero tariff and 70 percent at preferential rates. Pakistan was among the nine countries – including its textile rivals Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – that won the GSP Plus status. The country’s exports to EU had registered 45 percent increase while value-added textile products 88 percent over the past five years.
Article first appeared in The Business Recorder.