European Union (EU) is close to finalising the Strategic Engagement Plan with Pakistan and the 28 member bloc would also strive for a constructive and open engagement between Islamabad and Delhi. This was stated by Romanian Ambassador Nicolae Goia, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, while speaking at a round table discussion on Romanian Presidency & Prospects for EU-Pakistan Cooperation at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI). “We are working on a strategic engagement plan, which is in the last phases of being finalised. It would perhaps be done in the next few weeks or possibly a month. Once the plan is put into place, it will take Pak-EU relations to the next level,” Ambassador Nicolae Goia said. “We are on the right track for developing this relationship,” he further said. The EU is one of Pakistan’s largest trading partners and the biggest market for Pakistani exports. Moreover, EU and Pakistan enjoy good political and security ties, which were governed by an earlier five year engagement plan. The two sides have been working on adoption of the forthcoming EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan. The plan is expected to provide a framework for development of broad-based partnership in addition to enhanced economic cooperation in the coming years. Nicolae Goia said the strategic engagement plan would not be “time bound”. Romanian ambassador says we are working on a strategic engagement plan The plan would also bring in obligations for both sides in terms of economic reforms, market access and human rights, the envoy noted. He said that there was lot of potential for development of ties between Pakistan and EU as a bloc and individually with member countries and that needs to be fully exploited to take these relationships to the desired level. He also touched upon the recent tensions between Pakistan and India and said that the steps taken by Pakistan and the progress towards de-escalation was appreciable. He urged both Pakistan and India to resolve the outstanding issues through dialogue. This is not only the time to calm the situation, but also remove the threats to peace, he maintained. EU, as a global network, Goia said, would not only work for “dialogue between Pakistan and India”, but also for making it as “constructive and open” as possible. Speaking about Pak-EU trade ties, the envoy said, the preferential market access, the GSP+ arrangement, increased Pakistani exports to EU countries by up to 40 percent. “These are very significant numbers in terms of volume of Pakistani exports to EU countries and also an incentive for Pakistan to develop ties with EU,” he said. SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema, on this occasion, said Pakistan and the EU historically share good political relations and it was time to translate those into stronger economic and trade ties. Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2019.