The European Union (EU) has shown increased interest in the political development of Nepal following the historic success of the recent peopleâ€™s movement. It has also shown a greater desire to interact with the political leadership of Nepal.
In June, the parliamentarians and executive authorities of the EU held extensive discussions with Nepalâ€™s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister KP Sharma Oli in Strassbourg and Brussels. Also in the same month, two senior bureaucrats of the EU visited Kathmandu to assess developmental needs of the post-conflict Nepal. Subsequently, the European Parliament (EP) delegation paid a six-day visit to Nepal to assess the political situation and negotiation process. It held discussions with the government and party leadership, as well as with the Maoists, which may help the concerned authorities of the EU to prepare strategic planning for political and economic cooperation with the new Nepal. The delegation also held discussions with the media and business people.
The EP, albeit popularly elected from all member-states, does not wield enough power, as does a national parliament.
However, it can exert influence in the mammoth regional organisation of 25 member-states with 450 million people of diverse backgrounds. Certainly, the dissemination of information on the political assessment of Nepal would present before Europe a unique political picture of an underdeveloped country where two previously diametrically opposed forces are working
in tandem for political democratisation of their nation.
The EU, as a major international actor, feels its responsibility to help transform a fledgling democracy into a stable one by building its socio-economic fabric. Evidently, unlike other Western democracies, the EU policy toward Nepal looks moderate and positive.
At this opportune moment, Nepal needs to pay greater attention to deepening its ties with the EU through diplomatic efforts aimed at promoting and extending bilateral contacts at the political level. Nepal needs closer and continued political interactions with the politically important organs like the Council of Europe and numerous political committees, along with the EP delegations for South Asia and SAARC countries.
Nepal needs to be in constant touch with the missions of the country holding the presidency and other important member-states. All these political manoeuvrings will come into play when any important decision is being made in relation to Nepal. For this to happen, diplomatic skills, an aptitude for public relations and effective communicative and persuasive capabilities are highly warranted to further Nepalâ€™s interest in the EU. Politicians, businessmen and opinion makers can all have great ideas but these need to be communicated effectively to turn them into achievements for the benefit of the country.
The EU is both a provider and promoter of democracy. It has valued experiences of democratisation process, especially in helping transform fledging democracies into viably functioning ones, and in particular, in supporting new democracies in erstwhile Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region.
Nepalâ€™s infant democracy could reap rich benefits if we listened to our European partners about their experiences and acted on their advice in order to restructure the state machinery democratically, reform administrative set-up, frame laws, and also in the area of human rights and other democratic exercises. The EU is an economic giant with an annual GDP of about $13 trillion and also the largest trading block with an annual share of over one-fifth of the global trade. This exceeds the trade capacity of any other regional group.
The EU has been assisting Nepal with developmental aid and trade facilities in the past. But gaining grants, concessions, waivers, etc., should not be the long-term priority of new Nepal.
Instead, Nepal should enhance its trading capability for which we need to ask for technical assistance and administrative counselling from the EU, rather than donations and other considerations. This should be our long-term approach to ensure the countryâ€™s sustainability in this competitive world. Once political stability and peace is established in Nepal, we
can look forward to an increase in foreign investment, outsourcing, joint ventures and cooperation for tourism promotion and cultural advancement from the EU member-states.
Nepal should employ appropriate strategies that are supported and sustained by consistent diplomatic efforts, not only with Brussels but also with our missions based in other capitals of the EU member-states. Frequent exchange of ideas with missions of countries accredited to the EU should also receive our priority.
Shrestha is an ex-foreign ministry official