BRUSSELS: Pakistan and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday signed a Strategic Engagement Plan for cooperation in several areas including trade, peace and security, migrant issues and anti-money laundering measures.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini inked the agreement at a ceremony held in Brussels, Belgium.
Speaking to reporters after signing the pact, Qureshi said the Strategic Engagement Plan was a long-term resolve to further boost cooperation between Pakistan and the EU.
The framework includes promoting mutual peace and prosperity, trade and investment, sustainable development, energy, education and culture and addressing migrant issues.
The minister said the two sides will also cooperate and learn from each other’s best practices in cyber security, tackling money laundering and coping with any crisis situation.
He said the project will brighten new prospects in knowledge exchange, people to people contacts, development projects and good governance.
The minister lauded the efforts from both sides to materialise the plan, which would “result in broader cooperation between Pakistan and the EU under the umbrella of Readmission Agreement”.
“We will hold composite dialogue on migration and movement in the larger interest of our citizens.”
Qureshi dismissed the notion that Pakistan was facing isolation at an international level and said several European countries including the UK, Germany and France opposed placing Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist.
“Many European countries after realising that Pakistan has taken solid and positive steps are not in favour of blacklisting the country,” he maintained.
Addressing the meeting of the EU’s political committee, the minister said Pakistan’s foreign policy was based on peace and development, which were inseparable.
“Under the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan is pursuing a policy for regional peace,” he added.
“India tried hard to isolate Pakistan in the international arena, but remained unsuccessful.”
Qureshi said India was not responding positively to holding negotiations with Pakistan for the resolution of outstanding issues.
He also said the economic challenges currently being faced by Pakistan were the outcome of negligence in the last several decades, for which stringent measures were required for a sustainable solution.
Qureshi said Pakistan would insist on proper labour rights for its citizens working on Qatar’s football World Cup infrastructure in the wake of after repeated reports of abuses.
The gas-rich Gulf state has embarked on a huge construction programme to get ready for the 2022 tournament, drawing intense scrutiny from rights and labour campaigners.
Earlier this year Amnesty International warned that despite “nascent reforms”, Qatar was running out of time to stamp out widespread and serious exploitation of tens of thousands of migrant labourers, many of them from South Asia.
There have been reports of wages going unpaid, passports being held by unscrupulous bosses and some labourers working up to 148 days in a row.
Qureshi welcomed Qatari plans to offer his Pakistanis up to 100,000 work permits but insisted World Cup workers’ rights must be respected.
“Certainly we will ask our embassy and we will ask the recruiting agencies to give better terms,” he told AFP.
“Where we feel Pakistani labour is contributing, we feel they should be looked after as well.”
Since it was chosen as World Cup host it has introduced a monthly minimum wage of 750 riyals ($206) and partially scrapped the exit visa system which required workers to obtain their employers’ permission before leaving the country.
Qureshi welcomed the changes but said Pakistan would push for more.
“I think other facilities like health cover and stuff like that can be negotiated and we will talk with them about that,” he said.