Cushnahan to visit Pakistan soon
By Shuakat Piracha
BRUSSELS: John Cushnahan has indicated he would visit Pakistan in the ‘very near future’ before recommending to the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Committee whether or not it should approve the EU-Pakistan Third Generation Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
Mr Cushnahan, who is the EU parliament’s spokesman on the agreement, expressed his desire to visit Pakistan in an exclusive interview with Daily Times at the European Parliament headquarters here. He had earlier visited Pakistan as the chief observer of the European Union Election Observers Mission during the October 12 general elections.
Diplomatic sources in Brussels believe ascent from Mr Cushnahan, an Irish member of the EU Parliament, is key for the ultimate approval of the agreement, as the EU will take a final decision after his report. The agreement provides the foundation for Pakistan’s future relations with the 15-member EU.
“Now that the Senate elections have been completed at long last, it might be appropriate that I should return to Pakistan to discuss the political situation, especially with regard to the Third Generation Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” he said. He said his role as the chief election observer ended when he presented his report to EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten. “However, I have also been appointed by the Foreign Affairs Committee to be its rapporteur and spokesman to produce a report on whether or not the agreement should be approved.
“Therefore, the only political responsibility with regard to Pakistan relates to the agreement and Article 1 of the agreement puts particular emphasis on respecting human rights and democracy”, he elaborated. “Many in the EU Parliament, including myself, hold that these conditions must be met before an approval is granted,” he said, adding that it would, therefore, seem an opportune time for him to hear the views of the Pakistani political parties elected to the National Assembly, Senate and the provincial assemblies, and also to meet the NGOs involved in the protection of human rights and democracy. Mr Cushnahan said he would like to hear the views of a wide spectrum of political opinion in Pakistan before making his recommendations on what “our strategy should be on the proposed agreement”.
On whether the agreement was in the doldrums, he said the EU Parliament has decided no action should be taken to take the agreement any further for now. “This has not prevented the existing agreements from continuing and the benefits from them continuing to flow into Pakistan and its people.”