ISLAMABAD: The European Union is not concerned about militants taking advantage of the natural catastrophe to spread extremist ideology, says the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Kristalina Georgieva at a press conference in Islamabad.
Pakistan on the other hand says it is cognisant of militants’ activities in the flood affected areas, but insists it won’t allow them to take any advantage.
The EU is aware of religious organisations’ relief activities, but we have not seen any direct evidence which suggests that religious organisations are spreading extremist ideology, said a top official of the 27-nation bloc this Wednesday.
“In my conversations, I have not been exposed to any direct evidence that this growing problem with the disaster is being used for purpose of breeding extremism,” said Georgieva. She says there our humanitarian work is impartial, neutral, we don’t take sides. For us a victim is a victim,” she said.
Kristalina was on a two-day visit to Pakistan to review the flood situation. She met the Prime Minister and other government officials and also visited the flood-hit areas.
“This has been an unprecedented disaster,” she said, adding that the EU’s top priority was to reach out to the most vulnerable including women and children. We are open to discussions with Pakistan on greater market access for its products, she maintains.
Currently 20 per cent of the products enter the EU’s markets duty-free and 60 per cent on reduced tariffs, says Georgieva. “But if Pakistan wants more access, we are more than willing to discuss it,” she says.
The devastating floods have damaged Pakistan’s economy to the extent that its growth rate may be non-existent in the ongoing fiscal year. Pakistan has already informed its western partners that aid alone would not help deal with the problem. Its products certainly need greater market access in the EU and US. She acknowledged that the international community took time to realise the magnitude of the disaster that killed over 1,600 people and affected over 17 million people.
“The EU has its own mechanism to deliver aid in the affected areas through NGO’s and its international partners but that doesn’t mean we don’t trust the government,” was her response when asked why the EU was not providing direct assistance to the government.
The EU has pledged $290 million so far for flood victims but hardly any aid is being channelled through the government system.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi telephoned his German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish counterparts this Wednesday to brief them about the latest flood situation in the country.
He apprised them of the ongoing rescue and relief operations in all the four provinces of the country, expressing gratitude for the assistance provided by the three countries bilaterally.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2010.
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