Authored by: Raosen Taj Raisani
Edited by: Dr. Anjum Sarfraz
Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), Islamabad
One of the main aims of SVI is to highlight the contemporary issues and challenges of global repute. Continuing in its tradition to bring positive foresights on international issues and developments, SVI conducted an in-house seminar titled “Romanian Presidency of EUC: Mission and Priorities of the Romanian Mandate” on 7th of March, 2019. The guest speaker on the occasion was H.E Nicolae GOIA Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Romania to Pakistan. Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema President/Executive Director of SVI initiated and moderated the talk. A large number of diplomats, eminent personalities from the literati of Islamabad attended as audience.
Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema greeted His Excellency and congratulated him on Romania getting the presidency of European Council. He further explained the impeccable nature of Pakistan-Romania relationship by underlining the effects of this mutual relationship since 1960. In addition, Romania has individual value for Pakistan along with it being a member of the EU. He highlighted the cordial economic, political, and trade relationship with Romania. He also thanked H.E for visiting SVI for a second time.
H.E the Ambassador began by graciously expressing his gratitude remarking that it was his second visit to SVI and he found it extremely hospitable. He also noted the erudite nature of audience. He started the talk by underscoring the importance of Pak-Romanian relationship but emphasized the need for improvement in various sectors. Focusing on the impact of European policy, he informed that there exists an independent European Union delegation in Islamabad catering for the sole relationship between Pakistan and European Union.
He elucidated that the structures of Europe are predicated in a complex system and the terminology often confuses masses. In his clarification of the terms, he explained that Council of Europe is an organization not linked with the European Union. This organization primarily protects human rights in Europe and sometimes elsewhere in the world. He stated that this organization is composed of all the countries of Europe-forty-seven in number- debating and making resolutions on conditions of human rights in Europe. He further stated that this organization was instituted in 1949 and the anthem and seal were later adopted by European Union as its symbols thus the confusing terms and symbols in their similarity.
European council is, however, an institution of European Union. This organization defines the general political direction and priorities of Europe. It comprises the heads of state or government of the member states of European Union, along with the President of the European Council and the President
of the European Commission, representative of high European policy and security policy. This is one of the very important institutions which define the stringent lines of European activity on areas of policy.
Next, He described the structure and workings of the European Parliament. As the only legislative body comprising supranational boundaries, members of parliament come from every country in European Union. Interestingly this year is also the year of the elections of the European parliament and it is very crucial for the Romanian presidency, too. According to him, these elections and their resultant consequences will define the fundamental lines and the evolution of Europe.
The European commission is an institution that resembles the government of the European Union. The members belonging to each state of the Union act as ministers taking charge of the day-to-day affairs. The main functional areas include defining executive affairs and defining policies in the areas of economy, industry, environment, environmental development and regional development. In sum this commission can be labeled as the cabinet of Europe.
In addition to these institutes the European External Action Service focuses on European diplomatic service. It also provides visions for European defense and strategy. The position of the head is currently occupied by Fredrica Mogherini, who is a very competent and able administrator. This organization also carries out the Foreign policy and the defense and security policy of the European Union.
The Council of European Union whose current leadership is held by Romania as the president for six months is fundamentally the main decision-making body of European Union. It is also called as the council, the European Council or the European Union Council that is founded upon the Treaty of Lisbon. It is an official EU institution that performs three essential functions.
One of the functions is the power to legislate. It shares this power with the European parliament based on co-decision procedure. Primarily this means making or adopting the laws jointly by the European Parliament and the European Council, which are initiated by European commission.
The second role is to coordinate economic policies of the member states. In this regard, the council drafts guidelines for the economic policies of member states which are mandatory. These guidelines are further developed into recommendations and the implementation is supervised by the council.
The most important task of the council is however, to approve the budget. Working jointly with parliament, the council is also responsible for documenting the formulation and expenditure of budget. Along with this, they also work to adopt the annual budget. He expressed that this presentation of facts is extremely necessary to understand the working of the complexities of the apparatuses of European Union.
He was also preponderant of the fact that Romania has got the presidency for the first time. He believed that this role is not a reward but a grave responsibility in challenging times. He was although very confident that Romania will perform very constructively as can be witnessed through its performance in the two months. He was of the view that the aim of this presidency is to preserve the
continuity of the current agenda and to advance the rotating presidency by performing its duties efficiently and effectively. In this respect he was also observant of the fact this initiative needs the support of other member states. In a declaration of strong desire to work for inclusive work by preserving the unity in coherence, the Ambassador reiterated their resolve to work productively and effectively.
Many challenges and opportunities are existent in current dynamic environments prevalent in European and International arenas. These challenges include the impending Brexit, approval of the European budget, planning the multi annual financial framework, the conduct of European Elections and most prominently providing reflection on the future of European Union. These tasks are not just presently important but will also have an impact on the future. In view of these the motto and central theme of the Romanian Presidency is “cohesion as a common European value”. In current times that are full of existing issues, cohesion is the most important quality. This will enable in figuring out how to make Europe stronger.
The first component of this plan of action is to strengthen cohesion between the political components of the Union. It is imperative to enhance the cohesion of political actions to strengthen links between People of Europe, Member states and between member states of Europe and the citizens of European Union. The citizenry is the most important component in any institution and it also affects the working and composition of the European Union
The second important component of this policy of cohesion is strengthening of the economic cohesion. As Europe is classified into states ranging from most advanced to least advanced, it is important to lessen the gaps between the member states. The presidency is focused on making this vacuum less marked by bringing the least advanced countries closer to most advanced in economic terms. In addition to these, there is also a social dimension to this idea of cohesion. As social cohesion go hand in hand with economic prosperity, it is necessary to develop the two in tandem.
The presidency has defined its working in terms of cohesion and based on its activity by designing a policy that is predicated on four pillars of action. These pillars are: 1. Europe of conventions; 2. Safer Europe; 3, Europe as a global actor. In this regard the Ambassador highlighted the utility of strength of global actors as conflicts do not remain confined to localities but spread to other countries, there exists the need for actors that can produce quick responses and act in global capacities. Keeping this in view, the presidency aims for adopting a global role for Europe; and 4.Europe of common values. He elaborated further that these pillars are on the same page with the strategy documents and Bratislava and Rome declarations, the leader’s agenda and European commission or program. The contents of pillar one is the contribution to the cohesion of Europe to enable equal opportunities for the development of its citizens. As stated earlier according to the Ambassador, the primacy of citizens is extremely important for European decision making. In this pillar the aim of the presidency is to develop equal opportunities for the citizens of Europe. The pillar of Safer Europe underlines increasing the cohesion among the states and citizens. It also includes cooperation for the challenges of security. Furthermore, this pillar underscores finding pressing threats for Europe and the globe, most important
of which is terrorism. As a global menace for the safety and security of states and their masses, it is necessary to find suggestions for combating this threat and this pillar aims to do so by identifying means and processes for cooperation. Third pillar of the plan of the presidency involves consolidating the major global role of European Union, promoting the enlargement policy of the European Union, European action in its neighborhood, ensuring necessary resources for states and implementing the global commitments of European Union. Fourth pillar deals with defining cohesion as a policy. It includes developing solidarity and cohesion between citizens and member states by devising a policy of combating discrimination, assuring equality between genders and promoting larger role of youth and women in debates and policy discussions of EU.
The most important task is closing and moving of important files before European Elections in May. In these two mints since assuming the Presidency, Romania has advanced or closed more than 70 to 75 dossiers.
The landmark of the presidency is the informal summit scheduled to be held on 9th May in Sibiu, Romania. All the leaders of the European Union will be there sending signal of solidarity that Europe can emerge stronger from crises that have plagued it for long. Along with this, H.E was also confident for the negotiations concerning for Multi annual financial framework. It is a difficult task, but Romania will be able to persuade for accepting the budget.
On the topic of Brexit, the Ambassador was of the view that his personal thinking regards it as a tragedy. He thinks that The UK will remain closer to EU in economic and political terms as there are not that many benefits of being alone as thought of before. He is rather pessimistic but slightly hopeful that Brexit can be stopped. Brexit is very painful, but it also offers an opportunity for self-reflection and analysis to infer out the causes that precipitated this exit. The current analyses have been describing the consequential happenings of Irish backstop that will momentously affect Brexit.
In his view, the looming uncertainty due to Brexit and the challenges that European Union faces are very complex. These challenges apart from Brexit include the budget of the EU and the upcoming Elections of the European Parliament. He emphasized that Romania will continue the current agenda by preserving unity and strengthening cooperation between the participant nations and states of Europe.
Giving an overall understanding of presidency, H.E remarked that there will take place approximately 1700 technical meetings, 40 reunions at ministerial level and a summit in Sibiu. In addition, Romanian Presidency will be Hosting 300 events in Romania, of which 22 are ministerial level, 98 are meetings of a high level, 68 expert level meetings and 99 conferences. He commended that every resident in Europe will be participating in the preparation and completion of these events. Also, the presidency is engaged in supporting of High representative of External European policy to support and assist the initiatives of the high representative
The Ambassador ended his note on the hope that his presentation has clarified the intricacies of the working of the various institutions of European Union. He also expressed that he anticipated that his presentation has lucidly explained the concept and responsibilities of the presidency.
Afterward the floor was opened for question and answer session by Dr. Cheema.
The first question was asked by Ambassador (r) Tariq Osman Hyder. He asked about the current view and prospects of Pak-EU cooperation.
In his reply, H.E exclaimed that the relationship is the domain of European External affairs. As a member state however, he can comment that the relations are good and have potential for further betterment. It can be exploited further. Pakistan has been granted the GSP+ treaty increasing its export level to Europe to 30 or 40%. In recent times, there have been collaboration attempts in the sectors of health, social and cultural policy. Recently a 100M Euro agreement for assisting Pakistan has been signed and the Strategic Engagement Plan is in its last phases of being finalized. This plan is in the phase of consensus in the corridors of Europe and Pakistan. In the aftermath of its signing as a treaty a new and next level for relations between Europe and Pakistan will emerge. Strategic Engagement plan is for indefinite time and has obligations for the Pakistan, so it will be a long and viable opportunity for Pakistan for developing specifically for each member states and Pakistan.
The next question asked by Attiq ur Rehman, Assistant professor at the department of IR at NUML, he asked about the response and measures enacted by the European Union and its institutions focused on human rights concerning the abuses of Human rights in Kashmir by India and The future strategy of European Union council in addressing these issues?
The Ambassador underlined the importance of this question but emphasized the similarity of thoughts expressed by every member state with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision in solving the issue through dialogue. He stated that European Union promotes dialogue as the only means of solution vis-à-vis issues between India and Pakistan, specifically the issue of Kashmir. He optimistically remarked that the de-escalation talks that are being carried out are likely to be useful. European Union as a global actor will always perform its role for the peaceful resolution of issues affecting Pakistan and India. In the recent crisis, The European External Service was the first to ensure that dialogues start between India and Pakistan. In his opinion it is opportune that Wisdom and sanity will prevail according more room for dialogue between the two South Asian states.
Norwegian Social Scientist Atle Hetland inquired about the relevance of common values regarding the economic cohesion of European Union. He questioned whether there will be any utility of promoting common values in terms of economy when Britain is leaving an Economic Union while the rise of Populism and right wing groups opposing the European Union across its member states are jeopardizing the Union itself. What will be the co-operation in future with other organizations and between the member states? Will Brexit happen as a new imitation of the Norway Model?
Responding to the question, the Ambassador highlighted the role of Council of Europe as an organization independent of European Union. In his answer, he emphasized that the future between The EU and Britain will be like Norway. Many officials are speaking about the same role of Britain as in Norway. The Future shape of Europe is taking place in challenging times and the result of elections will define not in short term but long term. It will define cohesion in Europe or divisive right-wing Europe. He wishes that European Parliament will strengthen and drown out the voices of division and subversion.
Asad Ansari, Honorary Council of Finland, stating about the viability of the barter agreement in 90s between Romania and Pakistan trade which increased the volume of trade to 25 to 30 million asked about formulating any such plans in future.
In his reply, the ambassador opined that they are considering the possibilities and that He welcomes revivification of economic relations with Pakistan. A Joint economic session headed by ministers from both states in this year will deliberate any such activity. He stated that the relations between both countries are not as spectacular as before, but he wishes that relations become more agreeable. In the last he commended this as a good idea.
Dr. Syed Javaid Khurshid from CISS focusing on the technical camaraderie between both countries asked about the level of cooperation with Romania relating to technology and scientific fields. He queried on how to increase this depleting relationship?
The Ambassador in his response commented that in 80s and 90s Romania founded a refinery in Karachi. In addition to that, various Siemens factories were also constructed in Pakistan. Delving into the causes of the depletion of this relationship, the ambassador stated that post-1989 revolution Romanian economy declined in dramatic terms. This also resulted in a loss of profile for investors in foreign countries. Consequently, investments decreased in all countries. The ambassador also stated that he is in personal contact with industry officials to reviving the investments in everything. As Pakistan should not only import but also can and needs to export technology. There should be a balanced and equilibrated relationship benefitting both countries. In his recent visit to various technical institutes in Pakistan, he felt that Pakistan can offer a lot. For example, the exchange of technology and experts in Kamra impressed the ambassador a lot. It is, however, a work in progress which the ambassador believes will yield concrete result in his tenure.
In response to Dr. Javaid’s acknowledgement of the interests of the previous Ambassador in the fields of health and hospitals, the ambassador also affirmed his interests in this field citing that he had had a meeting with Minister of Health Mr. Kiani in this regard.
Raza Khan, special correspondent of PTV commended the ambassador for diplomacy and their visibility on the diplomatic scenes. Focusing on the economic classification of the states in Europe, He inquired about the state of the stability of the union in face of the existing hubris that the Residents of so-called Richer Europe are taking along the poor Europe’s peoples and what will be the future of such a relationship in face of Brexit?
The ambassador rejoined that he does not really believe that lesser developed parts are being dragged. After joining EU, Romania has increased her GDP enormously. Some areas like Transylvania in Romania are much advanced than Rome in Italy. He retorted that Romania is a fast catcher and is more pro-European. It is one of the middle to higher income economy. As a state coming from a central, socialist economy, it had to face decline after revolution and did not know what and where to place its initiatives. Ever since 2000, it is however expanding in terms of economy with exports five times bigger than Pakistan with population less than ten times. He was also of the view that Europe remains much stronger, with or without United Kingdom, and it will use every instrument and technique to cope with this cumbersome situation.
Madam, Zeenia Satti CEO of Pakistan’s People lead disaster management (PPLDM) asked that what the single most negative aspect of Brexit is for EU?
The ambassador believed that it is difficult to underline one aspect, but he can list three of the most Economy, Security and Image, not necessarily in that order. The most important being the deficiency of image. Brexit will affect other countries to follow suit.
Ambassador (r) Tariq citing the pressing need for incorporation of Turkey in the Union questioned about the intractable question of Turkey joining in European Union?
Ambassador replied in neutral terms that there was initial enthusiasm expressed by Turkey joining European Union but it has toned down a bit. He expressed that Turkey has a European component and that it should become a part. His opinion was that Turkey will join but not sooner. He also emphasized that the Europe’s policy in Middle East rests with Turkey. It will also help Europe to enact policies in Islamic countries and Africa. The joining, however, needs very painful reforms which cannot be compromised in any way.
Humayun Shami of the Pakistan Economic Forum inquired that the economic prosperity needs traders travelling to various places around the globe but many countries in Europe have placed Travel advisories, so how will trade take off in such a restrictive environment?
Travel advisories have a very prominent effect in encouraging and discouraging people from coming to Pakistan. The security has improved but the restrictive nature of places that are banned by Pakistani government for security reasons also affect the travellers. We are however working on it. Pakistan will become an economic miracle in a decade if encouraging principles and current governmental policies continue. Ambassador was confident that tourism and tourists will also help in assisting Pakistan and its reputation as a foreign-friendly country.
Ambassador (r) Fauzia commended about the optimism inherent in Ambassador’s views regarding Pakistan. In her question she queried about the status of The European Parliament and Elections in the aftermath of Brexit, Will the constituencies be redrawn? And how will Brexit impact the debates of policy?
In his reply ambassador stated that we should wait for Brexit. It is an incomplete process with many opposing views and tendencies and it is not sorted out just yet. Everybody in Europe is thinking about the possibilities and implications of this looming challenge. As a matter of fact, the EU is drawing constituencies in two ways, with or without UK. UK is number one in the number of seats so the overall number will remain the same without any redistribution of seats. It is a very complicated time and process for Europe and the solution will depend on how Brexit will take place.
Pervez Butt, reminiscing about the impacts and effects of World War II asked about the balance among the European Union countries regarding Peace and Armed forces. He asked that how do the Armies of the countries cooperate with each other and what is their share in the defense budget of the Union?
The Ambassador stated that Romania spends two percent of its GDP on defence spending. In current times, The US and NATO are pressing the member countries to increase their share in the defence spending by promising 2% of their GDP. He also retorted that there is good cooperation with regular exercises taking place. There are also debates circling about forming a European Union Army. H.E noted that this is not a far-fetched idea and it will be discussed in future. Also, Romania and other European countries are the strategic partners of the US which is an extremely important element of their security.
Shahzeb Khan, Director (PPLDM) noting the impending dangers of climate change and environmental decay asked that what the Romanian presidency is doing about environment.
Ambassador replied that there exists a comprehensive policy of Europe about environment. The EU performs various activities regarding climate change and environment change; they are for firm measures to limit climate change. It is very important for Europe to be involved in activities that aim for mitigation of concerns regarding environment as they are aware of the dangers and threats posed by this development. The EU performs activities in this regard in every part of Pakistan
Dr. Cheema expressing his thoughts about the contemporary scenario in the region asked about whether The European Union and the US are on the same page on Afghans issue?
The ambassador stated that they are on the same page which is that they believe that Afghans should be able to solve their problems indigenously. He also exclaimed and highlighted that the role of Pakistan has been acknowledged as the most important mediator. Everybody accepts that and praise their role. This will ultimately add into the important accomplishments of the State of Pakistan. It will also assist in limiting the deficiency of perception for Pakistan in the International arena.
Dr. Cheema thanked His Excellency for his time and his presentation. He also remarked that European Union is an example for economy and peace. As a beacon of regional primacy and as a bastion of economic and political cohesion, the example of European Union should be followed for regional peace and stability by other countries.
The seminar ended as a souvenir was presented by Lt. Gen (R) Syed M. Owais, Senior Member Board of Governors SVI.