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Asia

EU and Pakistan promise to boost cooperation

The European Union and Pakistan have agreed to improve their political and economic cooperation. The two sides issued a joint statement in Brussels on Friday at the second-ever EU-Pakistan summit.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, left, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels

Pakistan's Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, left, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels

For a long time, the EU showed little interest in Pakistan. However, that changed with the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Today, EU leaders think that the whole Western military and political engagement in Afghanistan depends on a stable Pakistan, as EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy explained in his press conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

"The developments of Pakistan have a direct influence on Europe and on the whole world. Therefore it is in our own interest," he said.

The EU thinks Pakistan is pivotal to peace in Afghanistan where bomb attacks are almost a daily occurence

The EU thinks Pakistan is pivotal to peace in Afghanistan where bomb attacks are almost a daily occurence

Direct aid to Pakistan

The EU supports Pakistan with direct aid as well as with development programs, which are focused on education, the fight against poverty and on democratization.

"Mr Prime Minister, we have common enemies, poverty and terrorism, our common instrument is political democracy. Now we have to succeed," Van Rompuy told his Pakistani guest.

The Europeans want Pakistan to continue fighting against extremism and to further implement democratic reforms. Both are difficult tasks for Prime Minister Gilani and he wants something in return. His main aim is to get better access to the European market for Pakistani goods.

"Trade not aid" is the term often used by Pakistani officials. But the EU has been reluctant to open its markets. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso mentioned difficult negotiations with all the 27 member states, with the European Parliament and the World Trade Organization. However, he did say there it might be possible in one or two years.

The Faisal mosque of Islamabad. Gilani reminded EU delegates in Brussels on Friday that Islam is a religion of peace

The Faisal mosque of Islamabad. Gilani reminded EU delegates in Brussels on Friday that "Islam is a religion of peace"

"Islam is a religion of peace not of terrorism"

Prime Minister Gilani did not only talk about trade, however. He was also keen to defend his religion against negative stereotyping.

"Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance," he said. "There is a perception in the West that the religion of Islam is a religion of terrorism. We are peaceful people and our religion has taught us tolerance, love and peace."

Before going to the European Council, Gilani had met NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen and told him his country was determined to win against what he called the evil forces of extremism and terrorism.

Author: Christoph Hasselbach (Brussels)
Editor: Anne Thomas

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