KARACHI - EU envoy to Pakistan Jean-Francois Cautain said here on Thursday, “Brexit was not a positive development for the EU. And we have entered uncharted waters.”

“Despite British exit from the EU we are determined to pursue an active global agenda,” he said this while speaking on the topic “The European Union Global Strategy” at the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi. He said the EU had a ‘toolbox’ to tackle various problems. The EU, in the ambassador’s view, had begun to move beyond development cooperation. And that now it was seeing security and cooperation intertwined.

The EU Global Strategy was launched in June 2016 and the ambassador was quick to dismiss any insinuations that it was the result of the British referendum. He said the mechanism was in the pipeline for quite some time.

Underscoring the importance the EU attaches to its relations with Pakistan, the envoy presented an updated status of this relationship. He said that Brussels and Islamabad had lately boosted their scope of collaboration. Previously the focus was largely on aid related initiatives, but today other sectors such as trade have taken the centre stage, he said. He talked about his recent interactions with Pakistani government functionaries. He said that Sindh and Balochistan remained the focus of attention during these interactions and dealing with malnutrition was the agenda of these meetings.

The EU had greatly benefited from some of its members’ socio-cultural linkages acquired during the heydays of colonialism. He cited French and English influence in West Africa and South Asia, respectively. Migration, environment and energy security remain key areas of focus under EU’s Global Strategy. A vast diplomatic apparatus around the globe only supplements the activity, he said.

Earlier, VC Dr Muhammad Qaiser highlighted climate change in his brief address. He stressed the need to confront the challenge of water scarcity. He lauded European Union’s seriousness and sense of urgency in this regard.

Director of Area Study Centre for Europe Prof Dr Uzma Shujaat eulogised the structural prowess of the European Union. The EU has not been a static body; it has effectively avoided stagnation. Its avowal of multilateralism remains relevant even in an epoch when the scarcity of resources is abetting protectionism and more insularity. She elaborated that any aggression among great powers of the world would be devastating for the European interests. She described the Russia-backed Eurasian Union and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as insufficient responses to apparent preponderance of the West at the world stage. They have hitherto failed to deliver as “purposive and performing multilateral organisations”.

When the floor was opened, a lively question and answer session ensued. Answering a question about EU’s diminutive role in resolution of the festering issue of Kashmir, the ambassador defended Union’s approach. He said that diplomatic measures didn’t have to always come from loudspeaker. “They can take different forms,” he said. He reiterated that the solution must come from the dialogue table.

Asked if the Brexit vote reflected the revulsion of the younger generation against the EU, the envoy said that youngsters had largely supported British membership of the EU and that the “project” still commanded a significant attraction for countless immigrants due to its long-held stability.

Regarding election of Donald Trump as US president, he said it was too early to make conclusions. He read out the letter of congratulations by Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker to Trump in which the importance of transatlantic ties was reemphasised. Moreover, the letter suggested an ‘EU-America’ summit as early as possible. All in all, the envoy appeared confident and optimistic about Union’s future as an international player.