BRUSSELS: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton heads to Pakistan on Monday to launch a wide-ranging "strategic dialogue" covering foreign and security issues, as well as development and trade.
Ashton, who flies to Islamabad after an EU-Russia summit in Saint Petersburg, will Tuesday join Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to launch the talks aimed at giving new impetus to ties between Pakistan and the 27-nation bloc.
"My visit to Pakistan is an expression of the EU's support for the consolidation of democracy in the country," she said in a statement ahead of the three-day trip.
The dialogue aims to spell out how to work toward an ambitious five-year plan agreed in January that would culminate in a Free Trade Agreement and include anti-terrorist measures and heightened development aid.
Ashton will also meet Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, military operations chief Lieutenant General Waheed Arshad, parliamentary opposition leaders and, in a Wednesday visit to Lahore, Punjab province Governor Sardar Muhammad Latif Khan Khosa.
"We want to deepen our collaboration in many areas, including judicial reform, strengthening the democratic institutions, but also work jointly on promoting regional stability and tackling extremism and terrorism," she said.
Ashton also said the EU wanted "to capitalise on the momentum in our relationship created by the special trade measures we adopted following the 2010 floods, and the significant development and humanitarian assistance we have provided to the country."
In a ground-breaking move in February, the World Trade Organization approved a waiver allowing 75 Pakistani products duty-free access to European Union markets for two years to help textile exports after devastating floods in 2010.
The EU is Pakistan's largest trading partner, receiving almost 30% of its exports - worth almost 3 billion euros.
Pakistan's trade with the EU consists mainly of textiles, which account for more than 70% of its exports to European countries.
Brussels last month announced a further 20 million euros in aid to victims of Pakistan's 2011 monsoon floods, as well as people displaced by conflict, bringing funding this year to 55 million euros.
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This is a good chance for Pakistani entities coz there are a lot of false reporting going on the local media around the world against Pakistan being a bad country and Pakistanis being very bad people. Media have to do something about it, may be develop a good relation with major countries' media in Europe and Asia. These things go un-noticed internationally but certainly it is developing peoples thoughts.
Blogs, columns etc. in local Pakistani newspapers show too much about internal matters. Media people should grow globalized now and launch a joint efforts with foreign counterparts. Universities play important role in it.
Wasn't it NATO which killed those 24 Soldiers? Isn't most of Europe part of NATO?
So, Pakistan should ideally seek an apology from EU members before exporting to EU.
EU will run out of clothes if Pakistan stops textiles export just for one month. Just like NATO ran out of supplies when Pakistan stopped its supply routes. No, wait!!!
Why do Pakistan makes it sound as if it something to feel honored about ? What the media and government is downplaying every time is that all policy makers including the recent visit by Chinese delegation has only one strategic mission in Pakistan.....and that is to tell Pakistan to end supporting terrorism.
@Ayesha: Well clearly they need help from wherever they can get it from. This current "democratic" government has completely destroyed the country and made it a laughing stock within Pakistan and across the world. They can learn plenty from EU such rule of law. Vote for Imran Khan to save the country
@Ayesha: "Typical condescending statement. The brown skinned people must be helped in how to rule themselves. " Apparently, Pakistan has already consolidated its democracy. Or, is it that Pakistan disagrees with the idea of democracy?
“My visit to Pakistan is an expression of the EU’s support for the consolidation of democracy in the country,” Typical condescending statement. The brown skinned people must be helped in how to rule themselves.
@socrate:Gone are the days when they came with stick's,New world order will be one shaped by Asia,I guess the USA and Europe will just have to tag along.
Pakistan has no choice in this matter. The perception in NATO and the US is that the foreign policy of Pakistan is controlled by the Army makes the job of civilian government very difficult. In fact delaying the re opening of NATO supply route to Afghanistan proved to be counterproductive and has isolated Pakistan internationally. We must talk what we can walk.
She comes with a very big stick ! The New World Order has no place for Governments who don't wag their tails. Regime change is as easy as changing ones undergarments.