Speech by Mr Jukka Valtasaari, Secretary of State: "European Union and South Asia", at the Pakistan Diplomatic Academy, Islamabad on 22 January 2001
The Pakistan Diplomatic Academy,
Islamabad, on 22 January 2001
Mr. Jukka Valtasaari,
Secretary of State
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
"European Union and South Asia"
Honourable Director of the Academy,
Dear students of the Academy,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to address the distinguished audience of the Pakistan Diplomatic Academy. I am well aware of your knowledge of world politics and global issues. I do not claim special expertise on South Asia although I have visited the region several times. My message is that the European Union and its Member States support democracy, human rights and good governance and consider them as a yardstick when partnerships with other countries are concerned. We are not missionaries, but we take international commitments and standards seriously. Respecting these standards is increasingly important in the age of globalisation.
50 years of European Integration
European integration in its institutional form is 50 years old. It is a success story. It quickly brought peace, stability and prosperity to war-torn Western Europe, while NATO took care of the "hard security".
European integration begun as a customs union, then evolved into a single market, and subsequently into a monetary union and is now taking its first steps in the domain of common foreign and security policy. This process involves a remarkable degree of pooling of sovereignty by national governments in Europe where the absolute sovereignty of nations was a rule since the Westphalia peace agreement of 1648.
Finland joined the European Union together with Austria and Sweden in 1995. For Finland, accession to the Union was not an enormous step. Our economy had been integrated with Europe for decades; we share with the EU the values of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Today the deepening integration of the Union, globalisation and relations with Russia define the playing-field of Finnish interests.
Recent major achievements of the EU may be summarised as follows: the European single market is a reality: goods, capital, services and labour flow freely. Next year, the euro will replace the national currencies of the twelve Member States that have joined European monetary Union, EMU. Cooperation in the field of home and judicial affairs has been strengthened, in particular immigration and visa policy.
The evolution of the Union will now move to the field of foreign and security policy, which has traditionally been within the domain of national decision making. The European Security and Defence Policy will soon provide the Union with a crisis management capability, not a common defence. The development of European Security and Defence Policy strengthens the Union's contribution to international peace and security in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter. The United Nation's Security Council remains the guardian of international peace and security. The practical work is done in cooperation with NATO and it includes other governments interested in promoting security in Europe.
During the next years two developments are important. The first of them is the introduction of the euro. What does it offer to South Asia? Twelve European countries have given up their national currencies in favour of the euro, thereby creating a large stable monetary union. A macro-economic balance in a large trading area such as the EU is good news to everybody globally. When the euro has established its position and when you can put it in your pocket early next year, it may become an alternative to the US dollar as a reserve currency.
The other development is EU enlargement.
Enlargement is the single most important challenge for the European Union over in the next few years. It provides us with a unique opportunity for a peaceful unification of Europe after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe. In other words: a European strategy for Europe.
Countries in Central and Eastern Europe, now free to choose their destiny, consider membership of the EU as a possibility to anchor their societies to democratic principles in an irreversible manner, to increase their security and to strengthen their economies. Enlargement will bring benefits to all, inside and outside the Union. After enlargement, the EU will carry more political and economic weight in international relations.
Global issues in a regional setting
Many challenges faced by Europe and other regions are global. I will choose two issues which have particular relevance to the EU's relations with South Asian countries. These are non-proliferation and human rights.
We are worried about the tension between the two major powers in South Asia. For several years the European Union has called on Pakistan and India to engage in political dialogue. In our analysis, the tension between Pakistan and India is slowing down the political and economic development of the region.
After the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in May 1998, the Union condemned the tests. In our opinion, they do not improve the security of either Pakistan or India, and they throw a shadow over the wider arms control and disarmament efforts of the international community. Moreover, the tests escalate the arms race and increase regional instability.
The EU does not recognise either Pakistan or India as nuclear states. This was also the conclusion of the recent NPT Review Conference. We continue to believe that both countries should adhere to the NPT. The EU has taken note of the positive step that both India and Pakistan have declared a unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests. But we strongly urge both countries to sign the CTBT, the binding international treaty to ban nuclear testing. Unfortunately, nuclear and missile programmes continue. We are concerned about the adverse effects the recent Indian missile test may have on security and stability in South Asia.
In 1998, the Union adopted the Common Position on the EU's contribution to the promotion of non-proliferation and confidence-building in the South Asian region. Common Positions enable the use of various instruments. The aforementioned decision allows for financial contributions for bilateral and international meetings, contacts between European and South Asian think tanks, initiatives for confidence-building and technical assistance regarding export control regulations.
Human rights and democracy
Human Rights are universal. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 has not lost any of its validity. The declaration and the international human rights treaties based on it require that governments respect and promote human rights. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are fundamental principles in the whole of Europe and are cornerstones of the European Union. Promoting human rights is an integral part of the EU's external political dialogues.
Respect for human rights and democracy are enshrined in all cooperation agreements the Union has with other countries. After many years of negotiations the EU and Pakistan agreed upon what is known as the new generation cooperation agreement, in October 1999. The EU is ready to sign this agreement once Pakistan returns to democratic rule.
The EU frequently raises its voice on human rights issues. Emphasis is given to such issues as the death penalty, minority rights, the principle of the inalienability of human rights, regardless of race, religion or opinions. In its discussions with Pakistani authorities, the EU has also taken up the issue of so-called "honour killings". The State not only has a responsibility to punish the perpetrators of these acts but also to take every measure to effectively prevent violence against women. Child labour is another difficult problem which needs to be tackled.
The EU and South Asia
The Union has a network of association, cooperation or partnership agreements on a global scale. The EU has a Cooperation Agreement with all the countries of South Asia except Afghanistan. The agreements provide the legal framework for political, economic and cultural cooperation and for development assistance. The EU is the main trading partner for most South Asian countries.
The EU and its Member States are major contributors of development aid. The European Commission alone gives about 400 million euros per year for Asia. Last year, South Asia's share was 230 million euros. To this should be added contributions by individual Member States, which are significant.
The development cooperation of the EU is outlined in what are termed Country Strategy Papers, which are reviewed every three to four years. The EU assistance is primarily directed to the social sector, health and primary education. In addition to long term assistance the EU gives humanitarian aid. At the moment, the largest recipient of humanitarian assistance in South Asia is Afghanistan.
Political dialogues are held regularly with most South Asian governments. The form and the level of talks vary. Seminars, conferences and round table meetings on specific topics are arranged, public statements are issued and elections are observed.
The EU is in the process of reviewing its relations with India. Last year a Summit Meeting was held, this January a special process of Civil Society dialogue was started, and a Round Table Conference will then be launched.
Pakistan : Back to democracy
The EU and Pakistan maintain cordial and friendly relations. The Union is interested in Pakistan's prosperity and political stability. The political situation in Pakistan is a concern, and the EU is ready to help.
The priority areas of the EU's development assistance to Pakistan are primary education and health. The European Commission has allocated about 200 million euros for Pakistan over the next 2 to 5 years, in addition to aid from EU Member States. Particular focus is directed on the condition of women and children, including combating child labour by offering alternative education. The EU is also contributing to reforestation, electrification of villages, disaster relief and food aid for the poorest sections of society. Many of these projects are implemented by NGOs. Roughly one third of Pakistan's exports go to the EU and one third of all foreign investment in Pakistan comes from the EU.
The EU wishes to see this relationship develop. In this sprit, political dialogue was resumed in November last year, on an ad hoc basis, after the suspension due to the military coup in Pakistan. The EU has constantly called on Pakistan to make progress towards democratic institutions at all levels. We hope that frank and open political dialogue will create conditions allowing the signature of the EU-Pakistan cooperation agreement which puts strong emphasis on democracy.
The Union follows the preparation of provincial and national elections. Compulsory quotas for women's representation in local elections are good. The EU is prepared to provide electoral assistance for national elections. A needs assessment mission will travel to Pakistan next March to prepare for electoral assistance and observation.
Another positive step was the launching of a campaign of awareness of human rights last April. We support the commitment to the freedom of the media and religious tolerance as well as the measures to improve the situation of women and of child and bonded labour.
The EU encourages Pakistan to continue economic and administrative reforms and to strengthen good governance. The administration's efforts to stabilise and revive the economy are welcome.
Jammu and Kashmir
The European Union is deeply concerned about the protracted dispute over Kashmir and about the human suffering it causes. Almost every EU statement on Indo-Pakistan relations and Kashmir refers to "the Lahore Spirit". Lahore was a good sign of rapprochement and confidence building. Unfortunately, the Kargil conflict ruined the promising beginning. Only last November, after a pause of 18 months, contacts were taken up anew. The EU commended these efforts.
The EU has taken note of the Chief Executive's willingness to resume a dialogue with India, "anywhere and at any level", and to use Pakistan's influence with militant groups to reduce the level of violence in Kashmir.
Finland, like many other EU-member countries, participates in the UN Kashmir mission, UNMOGIP. Finnish officers have been serving in the mission for some 40 years.
Afghanistan is another complex problem. The instability in Afghanistan is an issue for the entire region and beyond. Europe feels the adverse effects of the conflict at the end of the supply chain of drugs.
The EU position was first adopted in 1996 and has since been updated yearly. The EU's policy objectives are the promotion of a peaceful solution to the conflict, the establishment of a representative government in Afghanistan, support for the UN peace initiatives, an end to outside interference the Afghan conflict and the withdrawal of military and paramilitary personnel from the country. The EU imposes a comprehensive arms embargo on Afghanistan.
The EU position is in line with the UN resolutions on Afghanistan. The new Common Position contains a reference to the Security Council resolutions of October 1999 and December 2000 on economic sanctions against the Taleban. The main concern in these UN actions is the spread of terrorism and drugs.