May 6th, 2021
The European Parliament’s scathing resolution prompting a review of Pakistan’s GSP Plus (GSP +) status in light of the country’s severe Blasphemy Laws has raised concerns over the disintegration of the South Asian country’s much-prized preferential trade partnership with the European Union (EU).
But an interview with Ms Androulla Kaminara, the Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to the Pakistan on May 5, 2021, has served to provide some clarification of strong rumours of the revocation of Pakistan’s GSP+ status.
The GSP+ trade regime was constituted in order to give underdeveloped nations an incentive to implement reforms in order to enter a process of modernization and democratization. The European Commission thus reviews and reports on the progress achieved by these countries in implementing the required GSP+ reforms to the European Parliament and European Council, which then take relevant decisions.
Kaminara reminds us that it is the prerogative of the members of the European Parliament to table resolutions. But with regards to Pakistan’s situation however, the recent resolution was supported by an overwhelming majority of 683 members of the European Parliament. Although it is a very serious and very important development, it does not entail an automatic end to Pakistan’s GSP+ status.
“But it does give a very serious signal though that there is a need to accelerate the reforms,” she warned. “And that there is a concern on certain obligations of Pakistan that these have to be implemented.” In fact, the 2021 report points out the same areas of concerns highlighted in the European Commission’s 2020 report which request the Government of Pakistan to expedite the implementation of the required reforms.
With regards to Pakistan’s stance on the death penalty to which with European Parliament also took exception to (irrespective of the fact that no executions have taken place in the country in the past year as well as so far into 2021), Kaminara provided that despite the fact Pakistan constitutes just three to four percent of the world’s population, it contributes to one-quarter of the world’s death row inmates.
“Pakistan has 33 crimes that can lead to the death penalty. What Pakistan needs to do under GSP+ is to reduce the scope of the death penalty. The European Union is against the death penalty wherever it occurs,” the EU Ambassador to Pakistan stated. “But according to GSP+ which Pakistan has signed up for, it is not to totally eliminate the death penalty but to limit the number of crimes that can lead to the death penalty, that leads to over four and a half thousand currently being on death row in Pakistan. So, this is what we are requesting.