The 5th round of the EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue took place last Tuesday and was held via videoconference between EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Pakistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Pakistan-EU relations is based on a Strategic Engagement Plan signed in June 2019. In a joint press release (4 November), the two parties agreed to make efforts towards its comprehensive implementation in all areas of cooperation, including through strengthening of existing and new institutional engagements.
In addition, in a separate joint declaration, EU and Pakistan expressed their support to the on-going Afghan Peace Process and welcomed the start of direct Intra-Afghan Negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan Government. “Both sides should make earnest efforts for achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
On the positive side, Foreign Minister Qureshi recognized the EU’s financial support of €150 million to help address the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan. The EU appreciates Pakistan’s assistance in repatriation of stranded EU citizens due to flight disruptions. On other issues, cooperation needs to be strengthened it was concluded.
While the EU appreciates the progress made by Pakistan in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing, more could be done to meet the requirements under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based inter-governmental body which deals with treats to the integrity of the international financial system. EU has offered technical assistance in this area to Pakistan.
Basic human rights issues such as freedom of religion and freedom of expression were also discussed. Foreign Minister Qureshi raised deep concerns over the resurgence of Islamophobic acts in some EU Member States that have hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world, including in Pakistan. High Representative Borrell also raised concerns about recent terrorist acts in Europe.
Asked by The Brussels Times at a press conference yesterday if the two sides reached an agreement on these issues, a spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) replied that the positions of the two sides were clear and declined to go beyond to what is stated in the press release.
In the press release, both sides deplored the killing of innocent people and reaffirmed their resolve to strengthen and protect human rights as well as fundamental freedoms, and further promote inter-faith harmony, religious tolerance, and co-existence.
On the issue of Kashmir, Qureshi expressed Pakistan’s deep concerns about human rights violations by India in Jammu and Kashmir, and its attempts to change the demography of the disputed territory. Borrell remarked that the EU is following the human rights situation in the region closely and underlined the need for de-escalation and solving the conflict through constructive dialogue.
The Brussels Times