Apr 222016

ISTANBUL: Angela Merkel and top EU officials travel to Turkey on Saturday for a high-stakes visit which will see them walk a diplomatic tightrope between keeping Ankara sweet over a crucial migrant deal and taking a stand on European values. European Council head Donald Tusk, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and the German chancellor will visit a refugee camp at 1100 GMT in Gaziantep on the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey will ditch migrant deal if EU breaks promises: Erdogan They hope to boost a month-old, six-billion-euro ($6.7 billion) deal to return migrants arriving on Greek shores to Turkey which has been slow to get off the ground and plagued by a flurry of moral and legal concerns. Diplomatic relations are strained following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warning that the deal to curb the migrant flow to Europe would fall through if the EU did not keep up its end of the bargain by allowing visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. The bloc promised to present a visa recommendation next month if Ankara complies with its side of the accord, but there has been growing unease in Europe over fears that security concerns are being fudged to fast-track Turkey’s application. “The trip comes at a critical juncture in the implementation of the deal,” Sinan Ulgen, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, told AFP, pointing out the EU has not secured the backing of all member states, while Turkey has yet to meet all the criteria. He said the leaders would likely use the visit [Read More…]

Apr 222016

HANOVER, GERMANY: Opponents of a proposed transatlantic trade deal hope to draw tens of thousands onto German streets Saturday, on the eve of a visit by US President Barack Obama. Obama’s trip — to open an industrial technology fair in the northern city of Hanover and hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders — was intended to lend momentum to flagging efforts to see the world’s biggest trade pact finalised this year. But the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has run into major opposition, not least in Europe’s top economy Germany, where its foes have raised the spectre of eroding ecological and labour market standards and condemned the secrecy shrouding the talks. Trade: SBP removes sanctions on Iran A loose coalition of trade unions, environmentalists and consumer protection groups will join the colourful march, where activists from the anti-globalisation organisation Attac say they will dress up as “hippie” Merkel and Obama characters, hoisting banners reading “Free Love Instead of Free Trade!” “We are not demonstrating against Obama but against TTIP,” said the head of another campaign group, Campact, Christoph Bautz, who expected around 50,000 people to attend the rally in Hanover. “TTIP is deeply un-American and anti-European because it endangers our shared value: democracy.” A similar protest in October in Berlin drew up to 250,000 people, according to organisers, signalling an uphill battle for the deal’s passage. Mutual interest: British high commissioner seeks improved trade links “TTIP was never going to be an easy undertaking, but it [Read More…]

Apr 182016

LONDON: The “In” campaign has retained its seven percentage point lead ahead of Britain’s June 23 referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union although more voters were undecided, according to a ComRes poll for the Sun newspaper on Monday. The telephone survey of 1,002 people carried out last week found support for staying in the bloc was on 45 percent with 38 percent of voters backing a Brexit. That meant the “In” camp’s lead was unchanged from a similar ComRes poll last month although the number of undecided voters had risen significantly to 17 percent. Last month, 11 percent said they did not know how they would vote. “It is clear there is still considerable confusion about the referendum, which suggests a lack of clarity from both campaigns,” Tom Mludzinski from ComRes told the Sun. Phone surveys have generally indicated support for remaining in the EU firmly ahead of the “Out” campaign, while online polls have the two sides running neck and neck. The post “In” camp maintain lead, but more undecided ahead of UK’s EU vote-poll appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

Mar 192016

BRUSSELS: The East-West standoff over the Ukraine crisis has brought the threat of nuclear war in Europe closer than at any time since the 1980s, a former Russian foreign minister warned on Saturday. “The risk of confrontation with the use of nuclear weapons in Europe is higher than in the 1980s,” said Igor Ivanov, Russia’s foreign minister from 1998 to 2004 and now head of a Moscow-based think-tank founded by the Russian government. UNHCR to ask world to take in 400,000 Syrians While Russia and the United States have cut their nuclear arsenals, the pace is slowing. As of January 2015, they had just over 7,000 nuclear warheads each, about 90 percent of world stocks, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “We have less nuclear warheads, but the risk of them being used is growing,” Ivanov said at a Brussels event with the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Poland and a US lawmaker. NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has warned Russia of intimidating its neighbours with talk about nuclear weapons, publicly voicing concerns among Western officials. Missile defence Ivanov blamed a missile defence shield that the United States is setting up in Europe for raising the stakes. EU, Turkey strike ‘historic’ deal to send back migrants Part of that shield involves a site in Poland that is due to be operational in 2018. This is particularly sensitive for Moscow because it brings U.S. capabilities close to its border. However, the United States and NATO say the shield is designed [Read More…]

Nov 232015

ISLAMABAD: The European Union official in charge of migration was in Islamabad on Monday for talks after the country last week suspended an accord to accept deportations from mainland Europe.The suspension of deportation accord comes at a time when European leaders facing an influx of migration are desperate to streamline procedures for repatriations.European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos met foreign policy chief and interior minister on Monday, EU spokesperson Ayesha Babar said in Islamabad.Pakistan suspends deportation accordsShe added that the one-day visit was planned in advance.“He’s not coming just because of the statements” by officials that the country would no longer accept deportees from Europe,” she said.EU nations signed a deal with Pakistan in 2009 allowing them to repatriate illegal immigrants and other nationalities who transited through Pakistan on their way to Europe.But last week, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said airlines returning deportees without country’s permission would be penalised.Pakistan would not accept any deportees accused of militant links without clear evidence of guilt, Nisar added.A spokesperson for the ministry later confirmed the EU repatriation agreement was “temporarily suspended”.Pakistan may review deportation accord suspensionThe EU has not officially commented on the decision, though Avramopoulos was scheduled to speak later on Monday.Globally, about 90,000 people were deported back to Pakistan last year for a variety of offences, but in some cases they had been sent back without proper determination they were Pakistan nationals, the interior ministry spokesperson said.It was not immediately clear exactly how many came from Europe, although the figure is in the thousands.Europe [Read More…]

Jan 182014
Car registration in EU takes a slight hit


Registrations for new cars in the European Union slid 1.7% in 2013, manufacturer data showed Thursday, although country figures were varied, with Britain showing a big increase while sales in Italy and France slumped.

A total of 11.8 million new cars were sold across the bloc last year (not including Malta), according to the data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

The 1.7% decline compared with 2012 confirmed a lingering morosity in the European Union (EU), which is still struggling after four years of a Eurozone debt crisis.

However, the decline was markedly less than the 8.2% dive recorded in 2012 – which was the worst result for 18 years – suggesting the overall market could be stabilising. In the last four months of 2013, registrations actually climbed, and December recorded a 13.3% increase.

The situation was brightest in Britain, an EU country that is not a member of the Eurozone, with a 10.8% increase in new car registrations in 2013.

Beleaguered Eurozone members Italy and France had a far worse year, with registrations plummeting 7.1% and 5.7%, respectively.

The EU’s biggest economy Germany saw registrations slide by 4.2%.

Japanese carmaker Mazda performed the best in EU-wide car sales, lifting registrations of its brand 16.1% across the bloc.

Jaguar Land Rover also did well, up 9.7%, while France’s Renault managed a 4.4 percent hike.

Those left with smaller slices of the market were French group PSA Peugeot Citroen – which US auto giant General Motors is selling out of – after an 8.4% plummet in registration, and Italy’s Fiat – which this month took over US number three carmaker Chrysler – after a 7.1% slump.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2014.

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Jan 072014
Looking forward : Punjab governor expresses optimism over GSP Plus

ISLAMABAD: Punjab Governor Chaudhary Mohammad Sarwar on Tuesday said that the GSP Plus status would be instrumental for the new government in achieving long-term goals of stabilising the economy, accelerating growth and poverty alleviation.

Describing the distinctive features of the GSP Plus to Pakistan, the Punjab governor said that it would benefit Pakistan’s largest manufacturing and export sectors like textile, clothing and enable the industry to compete with regional players like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which already have duty-free access to the EU.

Sarwar said that Pakistan’s textile and clothing exports to the EU constitute more than half of the country’s total exports to the European Union. “There is a potential to double this in a few years,” he said. Sarwar added that approximately 40% jobs are connected with the manufacturing sector and textile-related industries, which would also witness a healthy growth in the days to come.

The Governor believes the status would boost the country’s exports, help revive the economy by creating new jobs besides spending on education, health and social services.

According to Sarwar, the government of Pakistan is fully committed to further developing the Pak-EU relations into meaningful and mutually beneficial trade propositions. “Pakistan’s inclusion in the GSP Plus status would also help re-balance South Asian market share in the EU besides having a positive impact on the local industry in EU, which rely on Pakistani products.”

The governor suggested that the textile policy should be revised for gaining optimal benefits from GSP Plus besides monitoring cell and a joint team of experts from ministries of foreign affairs and commerce.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2014.

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Dec 132013
Gsp plus: Foreign investment will increase, says FCCI


Government’s efforts for the unprecedented success in getting the 

GSP Plus Status to Pakistan was eminently appreciated by Faisalabad industrialists.

Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) President Engineer Suhail Bin Rashid said that this was a landmark achievement for the government and business community as it will enable duty free access to nearly 6,272 items of the country in more than 27 EU countries.

“Besides enhancing exports by about $1 billion per annum and generating employment opportunities for 100,000 people, it will generate higher direct and indirect economic activities in the country,” said Rashid, adding that this will pave the way for much required Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2013.

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Dec 132013
EU grants GSP Plus status to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The European Union (EU) on Thursday granted Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status to Pakistan with an impressive count of 406 votes, granting Pakistani products a duty free access to the European market. According to media reports, 406 members of the European Parliament expressed their support for Pakistan while 186 lawmakers voted against […]

Dec 122013
Pakistan succeeds to get GSP plus status from European Parliament

Pakistani finally succeeded to get the GSP plus status from European Parliament which allowing duty free access to Pakistani products to EU market. The EU Parliament took the decision with 406 votes and the facility would be available to Pakistan from first of January next year while this status has been granted till 2017. Now Pakistan can export its items to 27 countries without have to pay … Click for detailed story

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