New EU-Pakistan a solid basis for future relations - MEP Karim

Trade chief MEP, Sajjad Karim, has today welcomed the newly agreed EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan, calling it a “solid basis” for future relations.

Dr Karim - who Chair’s the European Parliament’s South Asia Trade Monitoring Committee - has previously stressed the importance of maintaining strong links between the EU and Pakistan, which have developed positively over the past few years, and described the new agreement as an encouraging development in relations between both parties.

The High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, announced the new Strategic Engagement Plan today from Islamabad, where she was co-chairing the 4th EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, together with her counterpart Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The agreement will be ratified in Brussels later in the year.

Dr Karim MEP and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met earlier this month at the Pakistani Foreign Office to discuss this agreement. Both confirmed that detailed plans were finalised for the agreement and looked forward to finalisation of Mrs Mogherini’s visit to Islamabad, which took place today.

Speaking from Strasbourg, the British MEP said:

“I am absolutely delighted at the news coming out from Islamabad today that the EU and Pakistan have agreed a new Strategic Engagement Plan that is really going to set the base for the future relationship - a much deeper partner relationship between Pakistan and the European Union.

“I know that this European Parliament will give its full-backing to the new further deepened strategic nature of the relationship that will develop into the future between the EU and Pakistan. 

“When I visited Islamabad just a matter of days ago and met with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, we had quite an extensive discussion about what was needed really to make this as ambitious as possible. I am very pleased by the agreement that has been reached. It provides a very solid basis for us to move forward to develop those relations and I very much look forward to welcoming Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi here in Brussels along with Federica Mogherini to sign the final agreement.”

Dr Karim has taken a leading role on behalf of the UK in strengthening the bonds between the EU and Pakistan through his work in the European Parliament, and worked extremely closely with former Prime Minister David Cameron to deliver a preferential trade package for Pakistan - the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) - as a UK Government trade priority.

Just last week he won the Parliament Magazine’s prestigious MEP Award, recognising his extensive work on EU International Trade, including EU-Pakistan trade achievements, as well as being awarded in 2015 the Sitara-i-Qaid-i-Azam - the highest national honour to non-Pakistanis for services that have helped the country - joining ranks with the British Queen and Nelson Mandela.

High Representative Mogherini also spoke about the rise of Islamophobia, describing it as a “threat for us all” and that it is a “priority” for the European Union to tackle the issue.

Dr Karim, who is the Vice President of the Parliament’s Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup, said:

“It is vital that our leaders and top politicians prioritise the elimination of Islamophobia from our societies, as High Representative Mogherini did today. If the issue is not addressed from the top, then it will be extremely difficult to eradicate it from our world.”