EU envoy lays out plan for GSP+ renewal

Kionka says Pakistan should ensure human rights, freedom of speech

Pakistan and European Union Flags. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: EU Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Riina Kionka has said that her organisation wanted to see more improvement in the country in certain areas, including freedom of expression; situation of minorities; rights of women and gender equality; and also labour rights if it wished to have its GSP+ status renewed.

In a video message, she noted that the EU also hoped to see freedom of the media in Pakistan as well as that of religion and belief.

The EU envoy expressed her concern over the crackdown on the PTI and its supporters in the aftermath of May 9. “[That] certainly is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to,” she added.

“We also are well aware that international NGOs and experts are looking at this. Specifically, the issue of the use of military courts and anti-terrorism courts,” Kionka elaborated.

The EU ambassador said her organisation was also well aware that there was a lively debate in Pakistan over both of the issues.

Criticising the military courts, she said Pakistan was a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). “[This] means that Pakistan has agreed that every person has the right to a fair and public trial in a court that is independent, impartial, competent and also has the right to adequate and effective legal representation,” she pointed out. Kionka warned that the main issue here was to avoid a kind of situation at the end of the year that nobody wanted to happen, certainly not the EU, because it would mean a “sudden stop” to the trade preferences which would affect Pakistani exporters.

“It would certainly affect the [Pakistani] factory workers and their families. It would affect European businesses [which] rely on Pakistani suppliers. … in effect [it] would also affect European consumers,” she added.

“The latest report on the GSP+ monitoring mission that came last summer is going to come out soon, so I don’t want to prejudice any thoughts on what it might exactly say, but from earlier missions and earlier monitoring, I can tell you that there are certain areas where the EU would like to see more improvement,” Kionka observed.

The EU envoy said the proposed extension of the current regulation for GSP+ in effect meant no change for Pakistan at the moment.

“It means actually that Pakistan enjoys the same … trade preferences [and] access to the European market,” she noted.

Kionka said Pakistan also had the same obligations as before in terms of implementing effectively the 27 international human rights, labour rights, environment and governance conventions.

The ambassador continued that it also meant that the EU would continue to monitor progress and backsliding and report to the European Parliament and the member states.

She added that the proposed continuation of the extension of the current regulation did not apply only to Pakistan but to all eight beneficiary countries.

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