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GSP Plus: MEPs want Islamabad to implement 27 conditions

November 05, 2021
GSP Plus: MEPs want Islamabad to implement 27 conditions

ISLAMABAD: The visiting Members of the European Parliament (MEP) have conveyed to Pakistan that the EU wishes to remain a reliable partner of Pakistan provided Islamabad fulfills its commitment to implement 27 conditions.

“MEPs underlined the need that the EU wishes to remain a reliable partner of Pakistan and will continue to support all efforts towards the improvement of human rights, freedom of expression, the rule of law and strengthening democratic institutions,” was the crux of visiting MEPs who visited Pakistan and held a meeting with key ministers and policymakers during their stay on November 3 and 4, 2021.

Pakistan has benefitted from the European Union’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP+) Scheme since 2014. MEPs noted with satisfaction the progress made so far, such as the adoption of relevant legislation, but cautioned that there were still some areas of concern and that the GSP Plus should not be taken for granted. As the EU prepares new GSP legislation, likely to include more global conventions on human rights and rule of law, more concrete steps are needed in these areas to ensure that Pakistan can continue benefiting from that favorable trade scheme if it decides to re-apply under the new legislation.

According to the EU’s announcement, MEPs underlined that the active participation and contribution of civil society organizations is considered vital in that process and that space for their activities must be guaranteed. The European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with South Asia, which covers relations with Pakistan, and other five countries in the region (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka), paid an official visit to Islamabad on 3rd and 4th November 2021, on the occasion of the 12th inter-parliamentary meeting between the European Parliament and the National Assembly of Pakistan.

The MEPs met with the speaker of the National Assembly, the deputy chairman of the Senate, the minister of foreign affairs, the minister for law and justice, the prime minister's Adviser on Commerce, the Attorney General of Pakistan, the governor of Punjab, with prominent Members of Parliament, with civil society organisations and with representatives of the media.

The meetings focused on issues of common interest, such as the state of EU-Pakistan cooperation in a number of fields, bilateral trade and GSP+, climate change, regional issues, good governance and the rule of law,freedom of religion, freedom of the press and the situation of minorities.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution expressing concern about the human rights situation in Pakistan. This visit offered the opportunity to assess the situation together with Pakistani interlocutors from the Parliament, Government and civil society and to gather first-hand information. The MEPs were encouraged to learn about relevant human rights-related legislation introduced in Parliament but expressed concern over the issue of blasphemy laws and rights of religious minorities. MEPs underline the importance of guaranteeing freedom of expression, and expressed concern about the shrinking space for media. Freedom of the press is a pillar of any democratic system. Censorship and harassment of journalists are not acceptable. The MEPs also reiterated their strong opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances and took note of the de facto moratorium that has been applied over the past three years.

The European delegation took note of Pakistan’s relevant role as regards developments in Afghanistan. The close historic and cultural ties with Afghanistan and the privileged contacts with the Taliban are an important tool in trying to address the risk of a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. While recalling the EU’s benchmarks for engagement with Kabul, MEPs expressed their appreciation for the role of Pakistan in helping channel humanitarian aid and in facilitating the relocation of vulnerable Afghans to numerous countries of the international community.

The Pakistani side assured that Islamabad is committed to the full implementation of the UN conventions related to GSP Plus. Adviser to the Prime Minister for Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, hosted a dinner in the honor of the Members of the European Union Parliament on 3rd November in Islamabad.

Speaking on the occasion, Dawood said that the visit of the delegation could not be timed better as the Fourth Biennial Review of GSP Plus to Pakistan was in process and would be completed in the coming months. He noted that the European Union was one of the largest trading and investment partners of Pakistan. In FY2020-21, the total bilateral trade with EU-27 was US$10.88 billion. The Adviser reiterated that GSP Plus had a positive synergy with government’s social agenda. It has helped Pakistan in attainment of level playing field in the European market on the one hand and acted as a catalyst to undertake necessary social reforms, on the other.

He welcomed the newly-proposed legislation for GSP for post-2023 by the European Commission. He told the audience that Pakistan had already acceded to the six new conventions under the proposed New GSP Regulation. He reaffirmed that Pakistan was committed to the full implementation of the UN conventions related to GSP Plus, however, it also wants the European partners to be mindful of its challenges. He appreciated the European member states for their support for Pakistan in securing the GSP Plus status and its continuity in the last three reviews conducted by European Parliament and hoped that the forthcoming fourth biennial review would also be successful.