ISLAMABAD, Oct 4 (APP): Pakistan and European Union (EU) on Tuesday agreed to further broaden and deepen cooperation under the new Strategic Engagement Plan and discussed matters related to trade, economy and energy.

They also agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas such as climate change, research and higher education.

Both sides recognized the importance of mutual cooperation in the field of energy and looked forward to holding the first energy meeting still in 2016.

The 3rd session of the EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue was held in Brussels between the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, and Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affair, said a message received here.

According to a joint communique issued after the meeting, the two sides welcomed the continued strengthening of relations between the European Union and Pakistan and agreed to elevate their partnership even further.

In this respect, they agreed to work on replacing the Five-Year Engagement Plan, adopted in 2012, with an EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan. Every effort will be made to finalize the new Engagement Plan by the middle of 2017, for approval by the next EU-Pakistan Summit.

Both sides discussed migration and refugees issues.

The Pakistan side underlined the need for addressing the root causes of migration and taking an integrated approach encompassing different aspects of migration.

According to the joint statement, the EU acknowledged the challenges faced by Pakistan in hosting over three million refugees and is ready to consider providing additional support, including for their repatriation to Afghanistan in safety and dignity.

They agreed to further strengthen cooperation on migration issues, including irregular migration, and reaffirmed their commitment to the continued implementation of the EU-Pakistan Readmission Agreement.

The EU side emphasized its continuing support for democratic institutions, electoral reform, the rule of law, economic development and poverty reduction in Pakistan.

The Pakistan side highlighted the steps taken by the Government of Pakistan for promoting and protecting human rights, including women, children and minority rights.

The EU side welcomed these steps, especially the Human Rights Plan of Action adopted by the Government of Pakistan and its decision to strengthen its human rights institutions.

Both sides also took note of the first GSP+ progress report. The EU side encouraged continued efforts towards the effective implementation of key human rights conventions.

The Pakistan side highlighted the improved security situation and its positive impact on economic revival and higher investment in Pakistan. The EU acknowledged the significant efforts by the Government of Pakistan and the sacrifices made in the fight against terrorism and reaffirmed EU’s continued support.

Both sides committed to further develop their cooperation on Counter-Terrorism, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.

They also agreed to strengthen dialogue on defence matters, including through EU-Pakistan Staff interactions.

On regional security, the EU encouraged Pakistan to continue its efforts in promoting peace in Afghanistan and appreciated Pakistan’s support for a successful outcome of the Brussels Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan on 5 October 2016.

The Pakistan side apprised the EU about recent developments in the region, including the current situation in Kashmir. Noting with concern the recent developments, the EU side underlined the need for resolving disputes through dialogue and constructive engagement.

The next EU-Pakistan Joint Commission, to be held in November in Islamabad, will further enhance the dialogue between the two sides, the statement added.