Results of the recent elections to the European Parliament astounded leaders and political scientists alike. The rise of the far right is being seen as a threat to the very existence of the EU, as indicated by British government’s overtures. This is the most crucial time in the history of Europe as a great paradigm shift has been witnessed. The EU has granted GSP Plus status to Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan-EU relations are also important for our foreign policy makers. In the instant piece, a rational analysis of the prospects for Pak-EU ties in the post-elections scenario is being presented.
Ever since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has been a strong ally of the West. During the Cold War, this relationship continued to be productive. European Commission started its cooperation with Pakistan in 1976 and made significant contributions in various projects and developmental programmes. During 1980s, the European Commission undertook many new projects in various parts of Pakistan. These projects included development of roads, bridges, a fishing harbour facility, rural electricity infrastructure, livestock, education, vocational training and integrated rural development. During 1990s, the European Union mainly concentrated on social sector development, education, human development and environmental management.
During the first decade of the 21st century, the EU contributed in terms of its support to Pakistan for its dedicated support during War on Terror. EU has been forthcoming in its contribution during October 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods.
In a landmark decision, in December 2013, the EU granted Pakistan, the much-awaited duty-free market access under the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) plus status. The concession would enable Pakistan for its export to European Union, its twenty-eight member states until 2017. This concession is extendable, provided Pakistani exports meet the criterion.
In May 2014, the European Parliament (EP) held its elections to elect the new Parliament which consists of 751 members. A total 365 million voters in 28 EU member countries were eligible to vote while the turnout remained 43.09%. These were important elections in EU’s history being the first under the Lisbon Treaty of 2007, which empowered Parliament to govern both EU and Euro Zone (EZ) at par with European Commission (EC). For the first time, the new Parliament also elected the new EC President. The EZ crisis has brought the EU economy to centre stage in these polls. The issue of ‘unemployment’ remained yardstick to measure the effectiveness and sincerity or otherwise of the main contenders.
The results show that the nationalist/eurosceptic parties won the elections from France and Britain. However, anti-establishment parties almost doubled their representation. Resultantly, centre-right and centre-left will continue to control more than half of 751 seats in EU legislature. The centre-right European People’s Party, led by former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker was ahead in elections. The center-left Socialists, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), led by outgoing European Parliament President Martin Schulz of Germany, was in second place with 189 seats followed by centrist liberals, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for European (ALDE), on 64. Anti-immigration and anti-globalization National Front (NF) in France emerged as winner and UK Independent Party (UKIP) defeated PM David Cameron’s Conservative Party, German Chancellor Angela Merkelâ€™s conservative bloc emerged the strongest. In Italy Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, Belgium Flemish Nationalists (NVA), Denmark anti-immigration far right Danish Peoples Party, Netherlands’ Dutch Freedom Party and Greece’s radical left anti-austerity Syriza Movement won the polls.
Given the recent developments, although, the Pak-EU relations are of strategic level, particularly, following the EU-Pakistani Summit-2009, yet the changing scenario and change of guards in EU Parliament, may impact future Pakistani interests with EU. There are many concerns on account of the GSP plus status. Pakistan is expected to face tough questions on various issues including, human rights, minority rights, etc. It is likely that anti-EU populists, leftists and protectionist groups will try to suspend the GSP Plus facility to Pakistan. Southern Europe countries (Italy, France, Greece, Portugal and Spain) will be more critical towards this status due to their textile sector pressure. New wave of malicious propaganda may be launched against Pakistan on human rights, minorities, blasphemy law, missing persons, women empowerment and child labour laws. Situations in Balochistan / FATA will also get more attention in new Parliament. Strategic dialogue with EU will also be seriously tested, as linkage will be drawn with situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s relations with India.
Indeed, Pakistan has contributed greatly towards the global community, particularly, the Europe and US in its entire history. May be it was the Communist containment strategy of the West, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the current phase of global war on terror. Despite being sceptical of foreign agendas, Pakistan played its role with honesty and dedication. Pakistan even spoiled its relationship with a former superpower and annoyed a vast majority of its masses. However, it never lags behind to its international commitments, being a very responsible state. In the war against terror, Pakistan lost over 52,000 people including 6000 personnel of the security forces.
Nevertheless, the State of Pakistan now expects its partners, the EU in particular, not to be discriminatory towards Pakistan. At the moment, Pakistan needs support of the EU and the US in war against terrorism. Politically, Pakistan would like to continue good relations with all EU countries. Economically, Pakistan needs that its goods should get enhance access to EU market.
By:Dr. Muhammad Khan