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State Secretary for European Affairs Janez Lenarčič: Statement by the EU Council on the situation in Pakistan at the plenary session of the European Parliament

Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

The assassination of former Prime Minister and main opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has complicated an already highly complex picture in the run-up to general elections on 18 February 2008. Bhutto-murder disturbed a gradual process of transition to a more democratic system in Pakistan. Ms Benazir Bhutto was undoubtedly a personality who could have contributed to progress in such areas as economic growth, decreasing levels of corruption and a tendency towards freer media.

Since the imposition of emergency rule on 3 November 2007, the EU, including the European Parliament, has emphasised the need for stability and called for reconciliation and a return to democracy. Recent developments underline that stability in Pakistan is our core interest. This means support to Pakistan's moderate majority in its struggle against a violent extremist minority.

The interests of the EU in Pakistan are closely linked to policy priorities regarding Afghanistan and the wider region and Counter-Terrorism, non-proliferation and human rights. This has repeatedly been underlined in our messages to the Pakistani authorities.

As President Musharraf is expected to visit Brussels next week, we will have a prime opportunity to deliver our messages. Contacts with other major stakeholders in Pakistan are in place, including with international partners.

The core message of the EU Council is that holding free, fair and open-to-all elections in Pakistan by 18 February is of paramount importance. The Pakistani Government should strive to ensure proper political and security conditions for these elections. All parties should respect the decision of the Election Commission to hold elections on 18 February "with dignity and restraint".

The Pakistani authorities should use the extended period to improve conditions for elections in line with international standards. Above all, they should do everything in their power to prevent fraud and intimidation and to ensure transparency, freedom of the media and release of political detainees. This should allow for a democratic and transparent electoral process under proper security conditions.

The EU will deploy a full Election Observation Mission to Pakistan. The EU hopes that a comprehensive international monitoring effort will take place.

At the first GAERC meeting on 28 January, the foreign ministers of the EU Member States will discuss in detail the situation in Pakistan and the possibilities of the EU to contribute more to a successful continuation of democratic processes in this country.

Thank you for your attention.


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Date: 17.01.2008