On June 24, 2020, Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) has organized a webinar titled “EU-Pak Relations amid Covid-19”under its IICR Globe 2020 Webinar Series. The distinguished guest speaker was H.E. Ms Anne Marchal, Charge d’Affaires, Delegation of European Union to Pakistan.
Ms. Sabah Aslam, CEO, IICR, moderated the session. In her opening remarks she said that the world is struggling with Covid-19, the international order is also being re-designed in this regard. There is also a room for forging of new relations or strengthening the existing ones. European Union has always played a constructive role in Pakistan; however, the global dynamics have changed now and thus there is a need to explore more avenues to enhance cooperation. IICR in this regard is hoping to create a lead to new discourse between EU-PAK relations through the webinar. Topics covered during the discussion were:
- How EU-PAK relations will be re-defined amid Covid-19
- What could be new avenues of cooperation between EU-PAK
- How to deal with migration crisis in these times
- EU’s take on Kashmir and CAA
- Human Rights violations in Kashmir during Covid -19
Ms. Marchal while enlightening the audience, said that Covid-19 affected the whole world and states are taking unprecedented measures like travel restriction, social distancing etc. the prime most is the health issues and policies. During the Covid-19 time, the bilateral relation between EU and Pakistan is facing numerous challenges like travel restriction and limited trade, and limited people-to-people contacts and research visits. But there are opportunities like impetus among the donor, to exchange amongst International community. Under the essential travel umbrella, in order to repatriate EU citizens and long term permanent citizens from Pakistan to EU states, two flights were operated with the help of German Embassy. Redefining the state operation to meet the objectives during pandemic. EU’s solidarity in terms of money during the pandemic is important, as other than public health, as the factor affected the most is state’s economy. EU office in Pakistan brought the funds and grants to ease the needs of the affected poor class. We want people to reflect and bring innovative ideas and voice to counter this crisis. We are going to have a world leaders’ summit and concert line-up for 27 pledging events to generate money for Corona Virus Global response, it’s a worldwide event. She further said that webinar is a good forum to strengthen public diplomacy, it’s a 21st century diplomacy.
Ms. Marchal said that on 25 June, it’s the one year of EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan, it offers a new framework to hold dialogue on political and security aspects and give guidance on bilateral cooperation on wide range of topics for instance energy, climate change etc., and high level engagements. The important thing in relations is to keep the momentum and keeping the dialogue open. Political engagement is essential for a healthy relationship. One of the key pillar of EU-Pakistan relationship besides people to people is trade. EU is granting preference to Pakistan i.e. GSP+ status. Pakistan is not a least develop country, we encourage Pakistan to fulfil the obligations it has subscribed as member to these 27 international conventions for instance human rights and good governance. Migration is a political matter in the EU. EU is taking a leadership role on the Syrian crisis and alleviating of suffering of peoples. EU also appreciate Pakistan’s Afghan refugee dealings. EU-Pakistan Readmission Agreement that aims at facilitating the return of illegal immigrants from that country but also nationals from other countries who have transited through Pakistan before arriving in the EU; was enforced for number of years, it functioning but not fully.
Furthermore, while answering the Kashmir issue, she said that it has to be resolved through peaceful resolutions. EU Parliament is always been very vocal on human rights. For EU it is important to have a peaceful resolution to this situation. EU appreciate Pakistan’s role in Human Rights Council in Geneva. She said that due to Pakistan’s effort, Kashmir issue now a days in limelight. However, regarding the humanitarian aid to Kashmiri people, she said in some special cases we keep the secrecy and sometimes EU cannot offer assistance to the entities if they don’t permit. Moreover, as far as visit of European parliamentarian to Indian occupied Kashmir is concerned, they have visited in their private capacity and got accessed to the IOK and is shown what the host wanted them to see.
In her concluding remarks, she said she wanted to see South Asia as an integrated region, and a green economy and green recovery of the region. She said the old trends coming back like visiting nearby areas. It’s time to have a regional approach and connectivity for growth and prosperity.
The webinar was attended by professionals and students of NDU and Quaid-i-Azam University.