Connect to share and comment

Counterterrorism takes center stage

EU increasingly recognizes need to help fight terrorism in Pakistan.

The long-running and very bloody Kashmir conflict, now obscured in the headlines by the turmoil on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, is one the EU can't afford to ignore, Austin said. He noted it was the Kashmir dispute that provided impetus for the terrorists who attacked Mumbai last November.

The EU simply cannot go into the summit on Wednesday “without having a view on Kashmir and how the EU will, in the next five to 10 years, pursue a Kashmir policy,” he said.

Still, committing to a sustained policy of engagement in Pakistan will not be easy. “The EU can barely maintain its commitment to other countries around the world, whether it’s Afghanistan, or whether it’s the Congo or Sudan,” Austin said. “There’s a really big degree of overstretch.”

Aside from the need to deal with the conflicts and threats, there’s a welcome — and useful — place for the EU’s financial, commercial and development assistance to Pakistan, the areas that used to be the foundation of the relationship.

There is the massive humanitarian crisis of refugees created by the fighting in the Afghan border region, estimated at 2.4 million people so far. The United Nations’ appeal for $543 million to help these people had only seen 22 percent of that amount funded by the first week of June. (The EU responded in May with $7.6 million.)

At a Tokyo donors conference for Pakistan in April, External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner announced the EU would bump up its existing commitment of $69 million per year. “We will go further,” Ferrero-Waldner said, commending the Pakistani government on its counterterrorism efforts, saying the EU estimated spending $640 million by 2013. "Rural development and education will remain the focus of our assistance.”

Pakistan has long wanted a free-trade agreement with the EU and moves toward that end at the summit would be seen as a strong goodwill gesture from Brussels. And ultimately, assistance in the economic domain helps lay the groundwork for long-term aims of eliminating the factors that often feed terrorism — or at the very least, complacency against it.

As Austin puts it, the very serious challenges Pakistan faces certainly demand all the attention the EU is now giving. And more. It will require, he suggested, “lots of imagination, lots of hard work, lots of new thinking and fresh ideas … a more far-reaching investigation of the art of the possible.”

Read more on Europe:

Why are the Portuguese so glum?

The untouchable Berlusconi

Read more on Pakistan:

For refugees, reluctant acceptance of a new life

The ground truth in Islamabad