Regional cooperation: Pakistan can help integrate South Asia, says EU envoy

Published: February 5, 2015
Chair of SDPI’s board of governors speaks at the seminar. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR

Chair of SDPI’s board of governors speaks at the seminar. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has the potential of becoming a champion of regional cooperation and integration in South Asia, just like the six European states that have played an important role in the integration of the continent.

This was stated by the ambassador of the European Union, Lars Gunner Wigemark, while addressing a seminar on “Deepening of Pakistan-EU relations: post Afghan withdrawal” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Wednesday.

“We support democracies. Pakistan is a truly sovereign country, we welcome the Pak- China economic corridor as long it involves others too,” said Wigemark, adding that steps taken by the Pakistani government to improve transit trade are encouraging and will help the country achieve global trade.

He said Pakistan’s relations with Iran are improving and assured the country of EU’s support in this regard.

“Europeans still trying to pool resources for an integrated region which seeks countries to secede some of their sovereign rights.” He added that actions undertaken in promoting sovereignty have impact on the countries’ neighbours.

Discussing the topic of the seminar, he said EU welcomes improvement in Pak-Afghan ties as it is important for both countries to move beyond the past.  He highlighted the importance of transit trade agreement for SAARC countries and said the EU not only promotes trade with regions but also within the region and referred to his country Sweden’s trade with Norway and Italy.

Wigemark said if both New Delhi and Islamabad had positive relations, the ties with Europe will definitely improve.

He said that EU will work in poor areas in the smaller provinces, particularly in K-P, Balochistan, Sindh and Southern Punjab to combat militancy in Pakistan. The envoy said he supported local elections as lawmakers should not indulge in local issues and they should be solved at the community level.

The envoy stated EU is the largest donor as well as trading partner of Pakistan, and explained that any country considering initiation of trade with EU should implement its conditions, especially those related to human rights. He said that death penalty does not help in ameliorating ties between the EU and Pakistan.

Former Pakistani ambassador to Belgium, Munawar Saeed Bhatti, said EU countries had been the centre of economic and cultural activities. He stated that EU acted as a model for other countries showing how to make their people prosperous.   Malick Sohail Hussain, chairman coordination of the FPCCI, said the GSP Plus status shows the confidence of the world community in Pakistan’s exports. He said that the death penalty was partially restored to combat the challenge of terrorism threatening the entire world.

Former ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel said in his opening remarks that the way the EU revolutionised after World War II could never have been possible without establishment of strong foundations instantly after the war.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2015.

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