Paola Pampaloni, the Director for European External Action Service (EEAS) for Asia and Pacific of the European Union, was in Nepal last week. During her visit, she met with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other ministers, civil society and private sector business stakeholders in Nepal. In her interview with Nepal Live Today Paola Pampaloni shed light on the purpose of the visit, EU-Nepal cooperation and many other aspects. Excerpts:
To start with, would you tell us what actually brings you to Nepal at this moment?
I came to visit Nepal primarily to participate in the 13th EU-Nepal Joint Commission meeting. This is an annual meeting held alternatively in Brussels and Kathmandu during which both sides make a comprehensive assessment of their relations and shared engagement during the last year. The occasion provides both sides to review and reassess all areas of cooperation, including development cooperation. Since Nepal is looking forward to graduate to a middle-income country, from its current LDC status, by 2026 and has been aligning its development plans with the Sustainable Development Goals, we are here to assess how we can support Nepal in achieving these twin objectives through a green, resilient and inclusive development plan, but also to address climate change challenges. I commend the ambitious pledge of Nepal to achieve climate neutrality before 2045 and become a carbon negative country after that. As confirmed during the last COP26 in Glasgow, Europe is a climate champion and we are keen to extend support to Nepal in its ongoing strive to achieve its climate ambitions. Overall, we discussed a wide range of bilateral issues such as trade (with a view to the graduation from LDC status by 2026), rule of law and human rights, good governance, as well as global challenges and regional developments.
What are the priorities and action plans of the European External Action Service (EEAS) for Asia and Pacific?
The Indo-Pacific region is a historic partner of the EU and home to three-fifths of the world’s population, producing 60 percent of global GDP and contributing two-thirds of the pre-pandemic global economic growth. The EU and the Indo-Pacific are natural partners in terms of trade and investment. The EU is already the top investor, the leading development cooperation provider and one of the biggest trading partners in the region. Together, the Indo-Pacific and Europe hold over 70 percent of the global trade in goods and services, as well as over 60 percent of foreign direct investment flows. This represents an enormous potential, also for landlocked, mountainous countries, such as Nepal.
The EU’s increased engagement in the region aims at contributing to a sustainable and peaceful environment, and the soundness of supply chains as well as trade relations. Its ambition is also to pace up innovation in the fields of green transformation, digital transformation as well as connectivity. We are keen to engage with any partner and have already started discussions on partnership and cooperation agreements with many various countries. We want the EU to be better connected to Asia and Asia to better connect itself in order to face regional challenges.
How does it work for countries like Nepal? What are the possible areas for Nepal and EEAS to work together?
The EU’s priorities in Nepal are linked to its global priorities on promoting peace, human rights and good governance. They are also aligned with the Nepali strategies and the 15th national development plan. We completed the previous programming cycle (2014-2020) last year and we are finalizing the upcoming one, for the period 2021-2027. I am happy to inform you that, although there have been budget cuts for the whole region, Nepal will receive around the same amount of development assistance that it received in the previous financing cycle.
As confirmed during the last COP26 in Glasgow, Europe is a climate champion and we are keen to extend support to Nepal in its ongoing strive to achieve its climate ambitions.
Through this cooperation we hope to contribute to Nepal’s green recovery and the strengthening of human capital. We are ready to help Nepal consolidate its federal system and governance, also in view of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The EU is also keen to cooperate in the field of trade, aiming to support the graduation from the Least Developed Countries status. The EU represents a market of more than 450 million consumers. If Nepal wants to enjoy preferential access to this market after becoming a Middle Income Country you will have to ratify and implement some international conventions in the field of decent work, environment and human rights. I used my meetings with the representatives of the Nepali government as well as with the business elite to explain how the EU can be of help in this process. In our eyes Nepal is an ally. As a democracy committed to shared values with the EU, we are keen to work together to promote a fair and rules-based multilateralism.
Nepal needs investment from foreign countries including the EU member states. How does EEAS coordinate the process?
The EU has been putting together the development program for Nepal after extensive discussions with the major stakeholders—development partners, Civil Society Organizations and the Government of Nepal on development strategies and the sectors that need more attention in terms of planning, technical and budgetary assistance. A new approach is to assist Nepal through a TEAM EUROPE approach—where all the EU Member States, the European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development come together to pool resources for Nepal’s development.
What will be the role of the EEAS to help countries like Nepal in their post-Covid economic recovery?
During the worst phase of the pandemic, the EU committed an eight million EUR recovery package implemented by UN partners, and its member states delivered medical equipment amounting to 12M EUR. Through the COVAX initiative, from which the EU and its member states are a major donor, 6.6 million vaccine doses will be provided to Nepal, and Germany will also provide another four million doses.
We are ready to help Nepal consolidate its federal system and governance, also in view of achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The EU is also keen to cooperate in the field of trade, aiming to support the graduation from the Least Developed Countries status.
The recovery itself remains the most important scope of our upcoming cooperation in Nepal. With the government of Nepal, and other major partners, our actions aim to contribute to the Green Recovery and Inclusive Development, aiming to boost its economy, provide decent and sustainable jobs while addressing climate change challenges in Nepal.
Under this framework, the European Union, Finland, Germany and France have launched the “Team Europe” initiative on green recovery to support Nepal in the fight against the consequences of the pandemic. This initiative will support Nepal not only in the sectors of energy, agroforestry, water and sanitation but also nutrition and equitable and quality education, key for resilient development.