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Delegation of the European Union to Pakistan

Pakistan and the EU

The EEC and Pakistan signed their first agreement in 1962. Our partnership has since progressed in tandem with the European integration process. Today, the EU is not only Pakistan's largest export market but also an important political and development partner. Our political and security relations are getting stronger, as evidenced in the EU-Pakistan Five-year Engagement Plan , underlining the dynamic nature of the relationship.

The European Commission established its first office in Islamabad in 1985. This was upgraded to a Delegation in 1988. In 1992, the humanitarian arm of the European Commission (ECHO) opened its own office in Islamabad. Since the entry into force of the Treaty on the Working of the European Union, better known as the Lisbon Treaty, on 1 December 2009, the EC Delegation has gradually been upgraded to a fully-fledged EU Delegation to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It now represents the European Union on matters ranging from the more traditional development cooperation, trade, humanitarian assistance, and the promotion of cooperation on a wide range of sectoral issues, including overall EU-Pakistan political relations, security and counter terrorism, energy, environment, health, transport, migration and climate change. The Delegation presently employs around 80 European and local staff.

The Head of the EU Delegation is accredited to Pakistan with the rank of an Ambassador, representing the EU in Pakistan. The Delegation is responsible for the coordination among the Ambassadors and Embassies of EU Member States represented in Islamabad on matters of common interest and EU policies in a number of fields.

The EU is one of Pakistan's largest trading partners and the largest market for Pakistani exports. The overall EU-Pakistan trade volume reached €10.49 billion in 2015 up by 20.14% from 2013 with Pakistan enjoying a €1.6 billion surplus in the balance of trade with the EU.

Trade with the EU accounted for about 22 percent of Pakistan's total trade in 2015. The EU received about 28 percent of Pakistan's total exports whereas about 12 percent of Pakistan's imports comprise of EU manufactured products. Pakistan ranks at 44th position amongst EU's trade partners and at 44th amongst import and 49th amongst export partners.

Pakistan's exports to the EU are heavily dependent on textile and clothing products which altogether account for 76% percent, followed by leather products accounting for 8 percent. The main imports from the EU are machinery and appliances (25.5 percent) followed by transport equipment (16.5%) chemicals and pharmaceuticals (15.5% percent).

In order to further promote two-way trade between the EU and Pakistan, both partners agreed in May 2007 to set up a Sub-Group on Trade under the auspices of the EU-Pakistan Joint Commission.

Since January 2014, Pakistan benefits from the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus regime, which has given considerable boost to Pakistan's exports to the EU. In order to maintain GSP+ Pakistan has to keep ratification and effectively implement 27 core international conventions on human and labour right, environmental protection and good governance.

The European Union supports Pakistan’s smooth integration into a rules based global economy. This can be seen at various levels, be it furthering bilateral trade, promoting direct investment, supporting institution building at federal and provincial level and defending human rights, which include the implementation of international labour standards.

The EU also continues to support the ongoing economic reform agenda pursued by the Government of Pakistan in consultation with the international financial institutions. In order to better understand Pakistan's energy issues, the EU is planning to expand its dialogue and cooperation with Pakistan in this field.

EU assistance to Pakistan is growing and, together with Member States, the EU disbursements for development and humanitarian assistance in Pakistan is now about €700 million per year (appr. 77 billion Rs).

The EU has supported Pakistan in its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and is now supporting its goals under the Sustainable Development Goals; that is to tackle poverty, increase literacy, reduce malnutrition and child mortality, improve maternal health, combat major diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and promote an inclusive and gender balanced development process.

The assistance provided through the EU Delegation is principally focused on providing long-term support for Rural Development, Education & Technical and Vocational Training, as well as Governance, Human Rights and Rule of Law.

The Multi Annual Indicative Programme details the EU cooperation priorities for the years 2014-2020.  

As part of its efforts to support a more stable, democratic and prosperous Pakistan, the European Union is contributing over EUR 340 million to rural development.

As Pakistan is largely an agrarian society, rural development is key to making a difference to those in need. However, insurgency, sectarianism, the absence of basic services and the lack of a vibrant civil society are major obstacles.

The EU support to rural development helps communities fund priority activities ranging from community infrastructure and micro hydro plants, through economic development, to youth and women’s activities. What is critical to all these activities is the involvement of the communities themselves as part of a process that helps build strong and engaged civil societies at the grass-roots.  Through their engagement in the activities, the communities change their perception of the world, of their place in it, and of what they can do to better their lives.

The programme engages communities as partners, builds their capacity to become more self-reliant and helps them identify the means to become masters of their own destiny. The long-term results are sustainable because the EU builds the capacities of local communities to:

  • Identify their problems, analyse them, agree amongst themselves which are the most urgent and how to resolve them.
  • Explore ways to make the money they raise go further by contributing their own efforts and expertise, and taking over the management and maintenance of their assets once completed. 
  • Resolve conflicts within the community.
  • Communicate effectively with local government. representatives to ensure that community interests and needs feed into their decisions.

Through the programme, the EU has been able to develop solid foundations on which to build a broad policy dialogue, in particular with the provincial governments in order to promote community-driven local development. This has resulted in programmes which are aligned with the priorities of the provincial governments and which will help them prepare and implement community-driven rural development policies and implementation strategies.

The ongoing support to education in Pakistan focusing on primary and secondary education is being provided to Sindh (30 M€), Balochistan (20 M€) and KP (40 M€) provinces. For efficient use of resources available and to focus efforts in a reduced number of provinces, to be able to increase the leverage of the EU in policy dialogue and reach out and impact of its development cooperation, support will focus on education in Sindh and Balochistan. The programme in KP is not expected to be extended after the completion of activities in 2017.

In Sindh, the Delegation believes that support should continue using country systems through budget support. An extension (6 M€) of the ongoing programme is foreseen within AAP 2016 and a new programme 70 M€) is envisaged, continuing the budget support, for AAP 2017. In Balochistan, cooperation has been agreed (AAP 2014) to start in the form of a project modality and a Financing Agreement was signed in November 2015.

While the EU puts emphasis on basic education, in line with government priorities, it is also supporting vocational training with current investment of € 46 million in this sector alone through two national programmes (MIP 2007-2013). Industries, particularly those in the manufacturing and service sectors, are in dire need of skilled manpower as they face increasing competition in the domestic and global markets. The technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programme in Pakistan has an important role to play in providing industries with skilled workers, technicians, and supervisors, as well as upgrading the skills of existing employees.

Support has been provided to: develop the National TVET Policy, improve governance, develop National Vocational Quality Framework (NVQF), build capacity of relevant stakeholders to collect and analyse labour market information, strengthen capacity of relevant provincial bodies and service providers and provide relevant training programmes for the most marginalised in rural areas. Both programmes will end in 2016.

Under MIP 2014-2020, focus will be to further roll out the recently developed TVET policy and to support its adaptation and implementation at provincial level, and to enhance the linkages of TVET provision – employment- private sector engagement and economic growth.

On these lines, the Delegation has developed a project (TVET III) worth EUR 49 Million within AAP 2015 (with German co-financing of EUR 4 Million). One component of the AAP 2015 project is likely to focus on the continuation of EU support to reform the TVET sector and support the implementation of the newly developed TVET policy. The other component focuses on the provision of demand driven and quality TVET services in Sindh and Balochistan and reinforcement of private sector participation.

The European Union promotes the democratisation process in partner countries through three main instruments:

  • Political dialogue, to encourage partner governments to integrate democracy and human rights into their development plans and identify opportunities for EU assistance to contribute to those objectives;
  • Mainstream democratic values in all EU development instruments, such as: political participation, representation, accountability, transparency and equality. Moreover, in the formulation of other policies, democratic values should prevail;
  • Specific financial and technical assistance programmes, focusing on four key areas: Promoting enhanced credibility and inclusiveness of electoral processes through strengthening the electoral legislative framework on the basis of the recommendations of the European Union Election Observation Missions; strengthening the institutional and organisational capacities of parliaments for improved performance in law making, oversight and representation; promoting access to justice for the poor and vulnerable by enabling them to claim their legal rights, and strengthening the capacities of the civilian law enforcement agencies and the judicial system.

Respect for democratic principles and human rights are fundamental conditions for the European Union, Based on our own experience, we believe that democracy is also conducive for improved economic and social conditions.

The EU played an important role through its Election Observation Mission during 2008 and 2013 general elections. Over 70 recommendations made by the Election Observers have been followed up since 2008.  

In support of Pakistan’s efforts to consolidate the democratic gains, the EU has provided assistance to the electoral reform process and is also planning to support the preparations for the next general elections, through a comprehensive institutional development programme benefiting among others the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Strengthening Pakistan’s parliamentary institutions in their core functions of legislation, oversight and representations is a priority for EU-Pakistan relations.

In addition, the ongoing EU support for civilian law enforcement agencies, judiciary, improvement of access to justice and justice system in general in KP (EUR 14 Million) and Punjab (EUR 7.5 Million) have an aim not only to strengthen the main principles of Rule of Law but also to build trust between citizens and state institutions.

On a bilateral basis, a number of EU Member States entertain S&T relations with Pakistan, starting with welcoming Pakistani students in their scientific education institutions. EU and Pakistan are committed to develop further cooperation in science and technology.

The EU's Lisbon Strategy aims to make Europe the leading knowledge-based economy in the worldNumerous programmes, initiatives and support measures are carried out at EU level in support of knowledge.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU research and innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It endeavours to promote scientific and technological breakthroughs and discoveries by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

Horizon 2020 is open to everyone, with a simple structure that reduces red tape and time so participants can focus on what is really important. This approach makes sure new projects get off the ground quickly – and achieve results faster.

The EU Delegation has concluded a partnership with the Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) to promote the HORIZON 2020 Programme in Pakistan. Two promotional seminars were organized in Karachi (University of Karachi) and in the Ministry of Science and Technology in Islamabad. Further seminars in Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta are foreseen.

More information: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/what-horizon-2020

Pakistan and the EU have signed up to all major international human rights conventions and are working together in international fora such as the United Nations. EU supports Pakistan’s commitment to strengthen its democratic institutions and promote human rights across all parts of society. Engaging in an open dialogue on democracy and human rights is an essential part of the growing EU-Pakistan partnership. 

The EU works with civil society in Pakistan to reduce violence against women and children, support women’s political empowerment, prevent trafficking in human beings, strengthen juvenile justice reform, and ensure the respect of the rights of minorities. 

The EU is supporting the Government of Pakistan, in particular the Ministry of Human Rights, as well as civil society to deliver on Pakistan's obligations under International Human Rights Law and protect, promote and fulfil human rights with a focus on women, children and religious minorities' rights.

To encourage greater transparency and accountability in the utilization of public funds and reduce corruption, EU is working together with Pakistani partners to enhance the efficiency of public services.

As from 2014 the EU admitted Pakistan to the benefits of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) against a pledge by Pakistan to comply with a series of human rights commitments. The EU supports Pakistan in its efforts to meet its obligations also within this new framework. 

ECHO in Pakistan

The Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) has been operational in Pakistan since the 1990s, where it has responded to all major humanitarian crises over that period, including the 2005 earthquake and the devastating 2010 floods which affected over 18 million people. It also provided much needed assistance to people hit by subsequent floods.

Since 2009, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid to people in need in Pakistan has totalled over €537 million, including an allocation of €21.5 million for 2016. Relief items have also been channelled to flood victims through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

In 2016, ECHO continues to support people affected by conflict in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, those suffering from malnutrition and food insecurity in Sindh Province, and Afghan refugees in the country. It provides food assistance, access to safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, shelter, health-care and protection to conflict-displaced families in camps as well as to those living with host families outside the camps. Principled assistance, strictly based on vulnerability criteria, is ECHO’s main concern for these displaced populations. Advocacy for a principled, voluntary and sustainable return process will continue.

In Sindh Province, ECHO funding allows aid agencies to provide food, nutritional services, healthcare, water and sanitation, and livelihoods support to the most vulnerable  communities. Specific attention is paid to children and mothers in order to improve their nutritional status and to make them more resilient to future shocks.

To find out more about our activities in Pakistan, please have a look at our factsheet .

EU Children of Peace Project 

The European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 and dedicated the award to addressing the needs of children affected by conflict around the world. Over the last four years, the prize money has been used to fund different projects under the EU Children of Peace initiative. In 2016, the Commission has released €1.5 million to support two projects in Pakistan. With this funding, close to 200 000 conflict-affected boys and girls in strife-torn province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as Afghan refugee children will be provided with opportunities to safely access quality education.   . For many of these children, whose families were displaced by conflict, this is the first time they have ever had access to education.

For more information about the EU Children of Peace Initiative, please refer to our dedicated factsheet and page.

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