Trade and terrorism top agenda for first EU-Pakistan summit
Brussels -- The European Union and Pakistan hold their first summit Wednesday, with the fight against terrorism and deepening trade links topping the agenda, according to a draft text.
In a joint declaration prepared for the summit, the two agree to launch "strategic dialogue" on "development, education, science and technology, security, counter-terrorism, strengthening democracy, human rights and enhancing trade."
The EU which regularly stresses Pakistan’s strategic importance in the region, is also set this week to hail Islamabad’s efforts to tackle terrorism and recognise "the sacrifice which the Pakistani people and armed forces are making notably during ongoing operations in North West Frontier Province."
That’s where their forces are believed to be on the brink of an all-out onslaught to crush the Taliban in the Swat valley.
In separate conclusions drawn up for a summit on Thursday and Friday, EU leaders express confidence that "a successful outcome would greatly strengthen the democratically elected government in achieving its political and development objectives".
At the landmark EU-Pakistan summit Wednesday, Europe is also set to offer more relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance in the Swat valley, according to the draft text seen by AFP.
In a report published Tuesday, NGO Oxfam International criticised "Europe’s feeble response to the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan," saying it was "hampering efforts to assist more than two million people who have fled the fighting."
At the summit Pakistani President Ali Zardari and his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, are also set to agree to boost bilateral trade ties.
The ultimate goal is a free trade agreement.
In the meantime the EU will "explore" how Pakistan could benefit from aspects of the bloc’s preferential tariff regime, which affords customs privileges in return for respecting certain principles in the areas of workers’ rights and the environment, according to the draft text.