pakistanLast week, we announced that Debating Europe would be introducing more audio and video content into our regular discussions. As part of this approach, we carried out Skype interviews earlier today with two readers: Nikolai Holmov (who blogs here) and Christos Mouzeviris (who blogs here). Both of them had some really interesting comments to make, and we’ll work to get reactions to their questions from European political leaders. You can check out our Vimeo channel for the latest videos we’ve published.

The Debating Europe team is located in Brussels, so we also want to take advantage of some of the live events that take place every week in the “Capital of Europe”. These seem like a good opportunity to conduct on-the-spot interviews with politicians and experts, and pose some of the questions taken from the Debating Europe platform. Last year, we attended Forum Europe‘s Data Protection event, and last week we had a camera at Friends of Europe‘s Pakistan event, interviewing the panellists.

We haven’t yet covered EU-Pakistan relations on Debating Europe, so we put our own questions to the panellists. However, in future we’ll be asking our readers for questions and ideas ahead of each live event, and we’ll also be asking audiences at events to take part in the online discussion on Debating Europe. We hope this will help open up the closed “bubble” of policy discussion in Brussels, and inject some tough questions and controversial ideas into the mix.

At last week’s Pakistan event, for example, we interviewed British Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim. We asked him what was holding back Pakistan economically, whilst the rest of Asia (including neighbouring India) was rocketing ahead.

Karim stressed the importance of strengthening the security situation in Pakistan, in order to encourage foreign direct investment in the country. Militant groups, including the Taliban, are a serious threat in Pakistan, with the country suffering regular attacks and bombings. In a nuclear-armed country such as Pakistan, political instability is therefore a global issue.

On the other hand, some of the panellists at the Friends of Europe event (and some of the questions from the audience afterwards) stressed how important it was to broaden the focus from just the security dimension. They argued that the root-causes of the problems in Pakistan were down to things like high unemployment and a failing education system. We interviewed Thomas Miller, Director of Strategic Communications at the US Embassy in Islamabad, and asked him why so much US aid was going to the Pakistani military when the root causes of instability in the country perhaps lay elsewhere.

There were also representatives of the Pakistani diaspora from both Europe and the United States at the Friends of Europe event. We spoke to Nadira Mirza, Dean of the School of Lifelong Education at the University of Bradford in the UK, and asked her a question that was raised by another panellist: should Pakistani diasporas focus on “helping themselves” (e.g. addressing issues of high unemployment amongst British Pakistanis) before they can more effectively lend support to communities in Pakistan. Nadira Mirza stressed how important it was for diaspora communities in Europe to identify with their home societies, and “if they’re Muslim, [see themselves] as European Muslims”.

What do YOU think? Does the EU have the right approach to Pakistan? Security has long been characterised as purely an American issue, with the EU preferring to focus on civilian projects… but is Europe neglecting its responsibilities in this respect? Or do we need to treat the root-causes of instability in Pakistan through greater support for civilian institutions? Do Europeans understand the importance of political stability in nuclear-armed Pakistan, or are there more important issues (such as the Eurozone crisis) that EU policy-makers should rather be focusing on? Let us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

You can see other videos from the event online here.

11 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    Not really sure what the EU could do to stabilize a country that the US is bombing everyday with air strikes. Besides, the elected government seems to have the same amount of tolerance the military did for the links held by Pakistani intelligence inside the world of militant islamic extremism.

  2. avatar
    Catalin-Alexandru Olaru

    That’s our problem? Really??? We have economic problems how does military “aid” help us? There is no point in having an army when we are unemployed.

  3. avatar
    Catalin-Alexandru Olaru

    Now let’s talk about ACTA and how our governments failed to ask a single public question about it even though it was debated for the major part of 2010.

  4. avatar
    Michael Tsikalakis

    We have at least two serious issues here. First is the geopolitical issue of Pakistan and second is the control of the existed nuclear weapons. Euro leaders should focus on these issues and generally on numerous other issues of Foreign Policy of Europe NOW. European Foreign Policy leaders should start creating United European and not Americanized Foreign Policy . Pakistan is a very important country to European Union and we should really get involved by helping the right people in power at the moment, to establish political and economic stability in their Country. Different religions is always an issue but this not a current problem. My question is ” which is current the European Policy or attitude, if you like, to countries that possess nuclear weapons? “

  5. avatar

    In a time where such destructive weapons can strike over the entire world, than these weapons are the concern of the entire world. Besides that, we have economic interests all over Central Asia. Therefore it is important to have some degree of influence in those regions.

  6. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    First of all I do not understand how we ever allowed Pakistan to have nuclear weapons (and India) while we go bananas over Iran..who decides who gets to have them and under what criteria? Ideally no one should posses them but that is another story..

    Second I would like to stress, that we do not have a totally harmonized foreign policy..Especially Pakistan’s former colonial power, Britain, might just have a totally different attitude or interests towards the region..So where does this leave us..?? Do we just follow Britain on this, or we act independently?

    Then there is the problem that you mentioned of supporting the military in Pakistan, while the main problem is education…By giving them more guns, is like trying to put out a fire with oil…

    And also, from what I see from the Pakistani communities in Europe, lots of them, (though I should not be generalizing) still follow their country’s traditions far more passionately than most other Muslim communities…I know some Egyptians and Tunisians here in Dublin and they are much better integrated than most Pakistanis..Though they are all Muslim…

    To me that is also another proof that education is a much better weapon to use than military strength..Because even if in a secular European environment, Pakistani people (not all of them of course) tend to follow more radical Islamic doctrines (like the shariah law, the burka or the niqab for women, or forced marriages) than many other Muslim nationalities..

    Can we intervene with a country’s educational system..?? Technically no…But we could encourage projects, work-shops both on Pakistani soil and on the Pakistani communities in Europe..

    If we continue to pursue violence and support military action against the Taliban activities, then I am afraid that we just make some people martyrs and we know how those people view them..It only empowers their determination as they see that the “West” is helping or supporting military activities on their soil, and they preach jihad and martyrdom and blah blah blah…

    What have we achieved in all the long decades that we have armed Israel like an armadillo in the Middle East? Have we achieved peace..?? Or perhaps stability..?? None of that..we are only getting into trouble with the whole Muslim world…Then perhaps that is not the right way..??

    It may seems the easier, but we haven’t tried anything else..It is harder to use diplomacy and education to achieve results, than military power…But the results can be longer standing and without as many casualties..

  7. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    This issues with Pakistan are numerous and complex. The interaction and friction between Pakistan, India and China alone is almost unfathomable at times before taking into consideration all 3 are nuclear powers.

    It has long been my opinion that Pakistan rather than Iran or North Korea, is by far the most worrisome nation with regards to its nuclear possessions. There seems to be no point in reexamining this issue though as it is quite impossible to “un-know” the nuclear knowledge possessed by Pakistan. It is also pointless to bemoan the US almost consistent policy of making aid available in a way that further bolsters its own military industrial complex. US policy is what US policy is and the fact its aid normally takes the form of a nation buying US made military products will not change in the foreseeable future.

    What the EU can do for Pakistan is act as an interlocutor, mediator and role model on the international stage. After all the EU has nothing but soft power options and that breeds better diplomacy and negotiating skills (one hopes).

    In order to do that, the EU needs to set a common foreign policy based on Cathy Ashton’s “silver threads” borrowed ostensibly from the founding and overarching principles of the Council of Europe.

    In order to do that, the EU needs to show that global presence can be achieved without hard power and somehow put the Pakistani military in a position whereby it is subservient to democratic institutions rather than operating above or alongside them.

    There is of course a major problem with doing this as far as the EU is concerned. Such a correction needed means a change of mindset not only within the Pakistani military leadership but also within the Pakistani population. Such changes do not come from top-down policies alone but require a lot of time and sustained effort in bottom-up support to society at large. I am not talking about NGOs or civil society but actual society.

    The issues with NGOs are to many to mention, suffice to say that foreign NGOs are automatically subject to the classic “self” and “other” barriers from government, military and Pakistani populous alike but the domestic NGOs often get so close to government to further their cause that they are seen as a sell out extension of the State rather than the necessarily independent bodies they must be to have any form of legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Needless to say if they don’t get close enough to government they are also ineffective.

    Therefore it seems realistic to engage with the population directly where ever possible and through whatever means possible to encourage democracy over quasi-military leadership and unaccountability.

    That is going to be a very long and a very hard road to travel and how any success would be measured and over what timescale is also very difficult to address. How long does any policy need to be continued to display any results and how long does any policy remain a success?

    The EU also suffers from the perception (or reality) of being less than democratic itself, not only in the higher echelons and how those appointments are made, but also when considering Greece and Italy and the technocratic non-elected governments now in place welcomed by the EU.

    Having democratic standards and occasionally failing to reach them is of course far better than having no standards at all and thus the EU should continue to promote democracy despite any shortfalls it may have itself but in confronting situations like those in Pakistan, it is a necessity to set the standard and not allow the cry of hypocrisy or duplicity to drown out the message.

    In this regard, the EU must look to itself when taking on the “hard-cases” and decide how, when, where, why and what to say to a population without the piousness that it all too often displays despite its own quite obvious shortcomings.

    Pakistan may well be a case where the EU should engage as something other than the EU. It may well be an occasion where bi-lateral national engagement will produce the best results given the recognised EU support for many US objectives and methods so unpopular in Pakistan.

    Would a German, Swedish or Danish approach (given they are not readily associated with the US as much as the “EU” is) provide a better foreign policy approach and thus channel EU issues through them?

    There will simply be times when the EU brand is not welcome but some of the ingredients in the brand are. This is an issue that as yet we see consistently ignored (in the public domain at least) as far as cobbling an all encompassing EU foreign policy is concerned.

    One size does not fit all and not all brand names are as welcome as others in some parts of the world.

  8. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    I certainly hope so! It’s about time we, europeans, know our ennemies and stop sooperating with THEM.

  9. avatar


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