Pakistan-Eu Troika Ministerial Meeting
09 June, 2005
By Shamsa Ishfaq
The European Union’s ministerial Troika held its first meeting with Pakistan in Luxembourg on 27 April 2005 after the enforcement of Third Generation Agreement on 1st September 2004. The meeting focused on bilateral relations and steps to strengthen the existing partnership, including a Commission proposal to increase annual assistance from the EU four times over. The two sides discussed a number of issues including bilateral relations, the situation in Afghanistan, counter-terrorism and non-proliferation.
Meeting has reflected the importance that EU attaches to the relations with Pakistan. More than ever before, it seems that there is awareness on both sides of the common interests that bring them together. On the occasion the EU officials were briefed by the Pakistani side on political developments in Pakistan, including human rights and democratization issues. The EU stressed the importance of further democratization in Pakistan and encouraged the continuation of the policy of 'enlightened moderation', promoted by President Musharraf.
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and the current President of the Council of the European Union said "We had a very fruitful meeting with interesting exchanges these exchanges gave us the opportunity to come closer and to get a better understanding of the problems and challenges we both have to face in our respective regions".
On the Pakistan-India relations, The European commission has firmly supported the Pakistan-India 'composite dialogue', and considered the opening of the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, as well as the recent visit of President Musharraf to Delhi as a breakthrough. It was hoped that the success in normalizing relations would secure a place in history for all those concerned. Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Ferrero-Waldner commented that the EU regards the confidence building measures being undertaken by both sides as crucial not only to fruitful relations between these two important partners, but also to the stability of the region as a whole.
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said, “the European Commission would now like to consolidate her support by substantially increasing aid to Pakistan in the coming years.” The aid allocation originally foreseen for Pakistan 2002-6 of € 75 million has already been substantially increased with allocation of €70 million for improvement of education sector in 2006. The European Commission now proposes to increase the annual allocation for Pakistan from €15 million to up to €60 million in the period 2007-13 to assist Pakistan in implementing its development plans.
If Commission plans are approved by Member States and Parliament, the EU will be the donor with the longest term commitment to Pakistan, helping Pakistan’s government to plan. A mission in mid-2005 is proposed to further discuss with the Pakistani authorities how a substantially expanded aid programme could best be deployed.
In the field of democratisation and human rights, the Commission has encouraged Pakistan to continue with its policy of "Enlightened Moderation". The Commission has played an active role in supporting democratisation in Pakistan, and indicated an interest in further cooperation in this area.
Regarding the situation in Afghanistan both sides have shown interest in a secure and stable Afghanistan and extended full support to the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Mr. Asselborn said that we also need to look beyond the parliamentary elections and maintain our commitment and attention to Afghanistan’s new democratic institutions. The importance of Pakistan’s role in facilitating the September parliamentary elections in Afghanistan has also been emphasized. The Commission recognizes the strategic importance of Pakistan’s role in maintaining regional stability and in the fight against terrorism and therefore expressed eagerness to work with the Government of Pakistan in the field of counter-terrorism.
The European commission recognizing Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism and non-proliferation shown a tilt towards Pakistan in the field of socio-economic development. The Pak-EU economic relationship has changed the status of Pakistan from a strategic ally in the war on terror to a strategic partner. The changed status has added to the credibility of Pakistan and is likely to open the new avenues of economic ties between Pakistan and the western bloc. This first ministerial troika has set a tone for the future of Pak-EU relationship after the passage of third generation agreement. It has, indeed, laid a broad frame work of Pakistan-EU relationship with greater content in the economic and commercial fields.