KARACHI: “The European Union (EU) is a friend of Pakistan,” said Anne Marchal, EU Minister and Deputy Head of Mission, Delegation of the European Union to Pakistan, during her lecture on ‘EU-Pakistan relations in current regional and international scenario’ organised by the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi, on Tuesday.
While categorically discussing areas in EU-Pakistan relations such as trade, policy, cooperation, migration, travel, education and diplomacy she also commented about the various negative statements coming out of the US regarding Pakistan and assured that they don’t make any difference to how the EU sees things. “We are not on the side of the US. We are on the side of Pakistan,” she said.
“The EU is a key trade partner of Pakistan,” she said, adding that Pakistan’s exports to the EU include textiles, leather, many manufactured products and agriculture, especially mangos.
EU Minister Marchal says human rights violations are not tolerated
But trade, according to her, with EU countries also depended on other things such as the human rights situation in Pakistan, environmental protection and good governance for which they have monitoring missions.
She also stressed on the importance of the presence of foreign NGOs that look after issues of humanitarian concern, freedom of expression, religion, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, etc.
When asked if their policies regarding trade could be affected by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) free-trade agreements, especially when China does not impose requirements on Pakistan, Ms Marchal explained that the EU had a human rights clause in all of its agreements no matter what country they are dealing with, and that the way she sees it China, too, wants to increase its trade with EU countries through CPEC.
“Therefore, there is a need for transparency and a level playing field that meets our criteria,” she said.
“Human rights violations make it to the European press and our parliaments pick it up from there. Any big violation of human rights anywhere and trade ties with that country are severed,” she added.
She also said trade, like seafood, is affected due to lack of sanitary conditions.
“We have set the same standards for other countries, too. But the security situation can play a part here as we should be able to send inspectors to check standards regularly.
Ms Marchal also said that Pakistan is among the top five countries known for illegal migration to Europe.
“Migration is a sensitive subject in Europe, even more so due to the situation in Syria and various African countries. We need to monitor and find ways to [tackle] this,” she said.
“Because as long as you have illegal migration it gets difficult for regular, legal migration,” she pointed out while adding that this may also come in the way of students who want to travel to Europe for higher studies.
On diplomacy issues, she said that the EU can be of help to Pakistan on various platforms.
“The EU is a full toolbox of solutions. We have a lot of peacekeeping missions and bureaucratic exchanges which can help. Developing counties are extended many benefits from the EU,” she said.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2018