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 Pakistan-EU Joint Commission meets in Islamabad

The seventh meeting of Pakistan-EU Joint Commission was held in Islamabad on 23 November 2016. The Pakistan side was jointly led by Foreign Secretary Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Secretary Economic Affairs Division Mr. Tariq Bajwa.  The EU delegation was led by Mr. Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director of the European External Action Service.

The two sides appreciated the continued strengthening of the Pakistan-EU relations. They expressed satisfaction at the progress made in the implementation of the Pakistan-EU 5-year Engagement Plan, including the holding of the Third Pakistan-EU Political Dialogue and the Strategic Dialogue in Brussels earlier this year.

In this respect, the two sides welcomed the decision to further elevate their mutually beneficial partnership under the new Strategic Engagement Plan. Every effort will be made to finalize the new plan by the middle of 2017, for approval by the next Pakistan-EU Summit.

The EU side reiterated its strong support for the democratic institutions, electoral reforms in time for the next elections, rule of law, human rights, economic development and poverty reduction in Pakistan, in accordance with national plans and priorities.

Both sides also agreed to continue cooperation in the spheres of counter terrorism, security and defence, disarmament and non-proliferation. They welcomed the holding of the second Dialogue on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, as well as the fifth round of the Counter-Terrorism Dialogue in April 2016 in Brussels.

The meeting discussed the economic reform programme of the Government of Pakistan and the EU welcomed the progress made in this respect.

Both sides recognized the importance of mutual cooperation in the field of energy. They welcomed the agreement to hold a first EU-Pakistan energy meeting in January 2017 in Brussels, to strengthen cooperation and exchange of information.

They also agreed to further cooperate on migration issues, including irregular migration, and reaffirmed their commitment to the continued implementation of the EU-Pakistan Readmission Agreement.

The EU acknowledged the challenges faced by Pakistan in hosting over 3 million refugees and is ready to consider providing additional support, including for their voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan in safety and dignity.

Cooperation on science, technology and higher education were also discussed.

Reports were submitted to the Joint Commission by the three subgroups on (i) Trade ;( ii) Governance and Human Rights; and (iii) Development Cooperation.

On trade, there was an agreement to work on strengthening trade and investment relations, including making full use of the potential provided by GSP+, and removing impediments.

On development cooperation both sides noted the good progress being made with the implementation of the current programme, and particularly the importance of policy dialogue. A number of key operational aspects of our cooperation were improved which will further enhance the effectiveness of EU’s support to Pakistan’s development. The EU stressed the role played by the civil society including, NGOs and INGOs in development and humanitarian assistance in a democratic society.

On human rights, the Pakistan side highlighted the steps taken by the Government of Pakistan for the promotion and protection of human rights. The EU side welcomed these steps, especially the Human Rights Plan of Action adopted by the Government of Pakistan and its decision to strengthen its human rights institutions, and noted certain challenges that required continued attention.

Both sides also took note of the first GSP+ progress report and the visit of a GSP+ Mission to Pakistan from 30 October – 4 November 2016. While appreciating the progress made, the EU called for continued efforts for implementation of the international commitments related to the 27 International Conventions.

The Pakistan side apprised the EU about the recent developments in the region, including the current human rights situation in Kashmir. Noting with concern the recent developments, the EU side underlined the need for resolving disputes through dialogue and constructive engagement.

 The Joint Commission is an important forum to review the implementation of the Pakistan- EU 5-year Engagement Plan, which was adopted in 2012. With the common goal of building a partnership for peace and development, rooted in shared values, principles and commitments, the Engagement Plan aims to promote cooperation and expand the partnership between the EU and Pakistan on a wide range of issues.

The Joint Commission was preceded on 21-22 November 2016 by meetings of three subgroups. The Subgroup on Trade was co-chaired by Ms. Fareena Mazhar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Mr. Peter Berz, Head of Unit in DG Trade, European Commission. The Subgroup on Governance and Human Rights was co-chaired by Mr. Zaheer A. Janjua, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ms. Paola Pampaloni, Head of Division, EEAS. The Subgroup on Development Cooperation   was co-chaired by Ms. Anjum Assad, Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs Division and Mr. Jorge de la Caballeria, Head of Unit, DG DEVCO, European Commission.

The next meeting of the Joint Commission will be held in Brussels in 2017.

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