Answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Borrell on behalf of the European Commission
Freedom of religion or belief remains a key priority of EU external action on human rights in line with the newly adopted EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024). The Commission and the High Representative have taken a lead in promoting and protecting human rights in Pakistan, including freedom of religion or belief.
The Head of the EU Delegation in Pakistan and the EU Special Representative on Human Rights have already raised the case of Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar with Pakistani authorities at the highest levels.
In addition, the High Representative/Vice-President brought up the implementation of the 27 international conventions covered by the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) in the fifth EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue with Foreign Minister Qureshi on 3 November 2020.
This included explicit concerns regarding the death penalty and misuse of blasphemy legislation. Most recently, the EU reiterated its messages in this regard to Pakistan, on 2 March 2021, in the Sub Group on Trade of the EU-Pakistan Joint Commission.
The 2018-2019 Report on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) shows that Pakistan is making progress over time in areas such as the elimination of honour killings, the protection of transgender persons, and the protection of women’s and children’s rights.
However, a number of shortcomings still remain. The report includes reducing the scope for the death penalty as one of the priority areas for action. The EU will continue to closely monitor, address and encourage further progress on these issues.
A temporary withdrawal of GSP preferences would be a measure of last resort when all other actions fail.