The 13th Pakistan – European Union (EU) Joint Commission Meeting took place on 23 June in Brussels. The meeting served as an occasion to exchange views on all areas of the Pakistan-EU cooperation.

The EU assured that it has a strong interest in working together and deepening its relations with Pakistan. The EU also welcomed the participation of Pakistan in the second Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum held in Stockholm. Pakistan recognized the importance of sustained engagement, particularly in areas such as trade and development cooperation. Both sides agreed to continue cooperation on emerging challenges of food and energy security, and climate change.

Besides bilateral cooperation, both sides also exchanged views on regional and global issues. Pakistan emphasised its grave concerns on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The EU reiterated its position concerning the war against Ukraine. Both sides stressed the need to find peaceful solutions to conflicts, in full respect of the principles of international law and the UN Charter.

Pakistan – EU Sub-Group meeting on Democracy, Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights

The Joint Commission was preceded by the Sub-Group meeting on Democracy, Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights. Pakistan and the EU discussed a wide range of human rights related matters, such as the operating space for civil society organisations, preserving freedom of expression and opinion and the growing problem of disinformation. The EU recalled the importance of ensuring access to justice in line with international standards, such as the ICCPR. Pakistan and the EU also exchanged views on freedom of religion or belief and the rights of persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups and concerns about anti-Muslim hatred. Pakistan shared the steps taken to strengthen access to justice as well as reforms related to the application of the death penalty. They also discussed the reform of the mercy petitions procedure. The EU reiterated its position on the abolishment of death penalty and emphasised the need to pursue the reform process. The EU welcomed the progress made by Pakistan on the anti-torture legislation.

With regards to electoral reforms, Pakistan underscored that it had welcomed independent observers in the past to monitor elections in the country.

Pakistan – EU Sub-Group on Trade

The Pakistan – EU Sub-group meeting on Trade also preceded the Joint Commission. A range of trade topics at the multilateral (WTO), plurilateral and bilateral levels, including market access issues and other areas of specific interest and cooperation were on the agenda. They agreed on the importance of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+). The EU presented the state of play of the ongoing negotiations on the renewed Generalised Scheme of Preferences applicable from 2024. Pakistan’s reform agenda towards the full implementation of the 27 international conventions related to GSP+ was recognized. The new GSP Plus Scheme was also discussed, for which beneficiary countries will have to reapply, once the new Scheme is finalized.

Pakistan – EU Sub-Group on Development Cooperation

The Joint Commission was also briefed about the outcomes of the Sub-Group on Development Cooperation. Pakistan and the EU welcomed the cooperation and took stock of the progress under the previous and ongoing EU Multi Annual Financial Framework. Pakistan and The EU also exchanged views on future programmes and longer-term development needs. The EU informed about the Global Gateway, the EU’s strategy for connecting the world through investments and partnerships – to be delivered through Team Europe approach – under the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+) as the main financial tool. Pakistan reiterated appreciation for the EU’s commitment in support of its Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction Framework (4RF) following the floods of last year, which was also demonstrated at the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan, held in Geneva in January 2023. Pakistan and the EU agreed on the need to explore further collaboration with European IFIs to boost Global Gateway infrastructure investments’ financing.

Other issues of common interest

Pakistan and the EU emphasised the importance of comprehensive cooperation on migration management, including return and readmission under the framework of Pakistan-EU Joint Readmission Agreement. Both sides also agreed to intensify cooperation in the fight against smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings. The EU expressed sincere condolences on the loss of Pakistani lives in a tragic shipwreck on the Mediterranean Sea.

Both sides also underscored the significance of Pakistan-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue which aims to open pathways for legal migration, besides curbing illegal migration. They also expressed satisfaction over holding of the inaugural meeting of the Migration and Mobility Dialogue in Islamabad, which was preceded by the Joint Readmission Committee meeting and the technical round table for the Talent Partnerships. The EU also acknowledged Pakistan’s generosity in hosting Afghan refugees.

Pakistan and the EU acknowledged the importance of future cooperation on security matters. In this connection, they welcomed the resumption of the Counter-terrorism (CT) Dialogue.

They also discussed the need to expand cooperation in the area of climate change and environment, as well as in the fields of education, culture, science and technology, connectivity and digitalisation. They appreciated the significance of Pak-EU knowledge partnership, in particular the growing participation of Pakistani students under the Erasmus Mundus scholarship programme. Both sides also agreed to explore research collaborations under the Horizon Europe Programme.

The Joint Commission was co-chaired by Ms Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific in the European External Action Service, and Dr Kazim Niaz, Secretary, Economic Affairs Division, Government of Pakistan.

It was agreed to hold the next session of the Pakistan-EU Joint Commission in Islamabad in 2024.

Jointly issued from Islamabad and Brussels
28 June 2023

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