BRUSSELS: Pakistan and the European Union on Wednesday vowed to kick-start a strategic dialogue covering security, aid, trade and measures to promote democracy.
The European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — said it would give an additional 72 million euros in emergency humanitarian assistance to people displaced by the military offensive against the Taliban.
At a first-ever summit with Pakistan, EU leaders promised to consider entering into a free trade agreement with Pakistan as an ‘option in the long term’ and said the focus would also be on short-term measures to help Islamabad diversify exports and attract investments.
They signalled strong EU support for consolidating democracy and fighting extremism in the country.
The meeting brought President Asif Ali Zardari face to face with President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, representing the current EU presidency, as well as Jose Manuel Barroso, head of the European Commission, and Javier Solana, High Representative for the EU’s foreign policy.
Later in his talks with Nato officials, Mr Zardari said his government was determined to fight the Taliban. ‘My army’s determination to fight is there, my people’s determination to fight is there, and defeat is not an option for us.’
At the EU summit, President Klaus said he was ‘impressed’ by the Pakistani leader’s commitment to fighting the Taliban. ‘We see a visible change compared to the past,’ said Mr Klaus. ‘The EU will continue to assist Pakistan in its fight against both insurgency and economic crisis while boosting significantly our humanitarian aid,’ said Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The commission chief said that on trade, the EU was looking at ‘adequate measures’ to help improve Pakistan’s access to European markets. But support for any changes in market access would be needed from all 27 EU member states and signatories to the World Trade Organisation, he added.
Mr Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Solana said relations with Pakistan were now set at a ‘strategic level’. The two also welcomed Islamabad’s resolve in challenging the Taliban.
‘We are impressed by his commitment...to make Pakistan a democracy, but also to avoid Pakistan becoming a source of conflict and terror in other parts of the world,’ said Mr Solana.
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