ANN CAHILL: EU examines ways to help Pakistan recover

THE EU is battling to find a way to help Pakistan deal with the humanitarian disaster following the devastating floods last month.

More than €230 million has been contributed or pledged by the EU and member states – so far the biggest contribution from the international community, but all agree that more is required.

One idea is to lift tariffs on imports from Pakistan either on all or on a selected number of products.

This could affect the textile industries of Portugal and Spain in particular, but could be worth up to €1 billion a year to Pakistan. India, however, is likely to oppose it with the World Trade Organisation.

Another idea being investigated by Trade Commissioner Kaarl de Gucht is to grant Pakistan favourable trade status. However, this has been held up, partly because of problems over human rights.

Pakistan is key to future security in the region, not only because it is a nuclear power, but because of its role in Afghanistan.

“The flooding has compounded the strategic vulnerability in combating terrorism and the security of the nuclear state and the whole of Afghanistan”, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said following a meeting of foreign ministers meeting in Belgium at the weekend.

The flooding that claimed at least 1,200 lives and displaced several million people in the country of 80 million, is primed to cause even more hardship in the coming months, he said.

The United Nations warns that food security is an issue for up to eight million people over the coming months. Cholera and waterborne diseases are appearing, while getting aid to many of the remote areas affected continues to pose big challenges, Mr Martin added.

The issue will be discussed by EU leaders at their meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

The Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said earlier this week that his country needed greater market access to help stabilise its economy.

He warned that Islamist militants would try to exploit the situation if aid was not being delivered.


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