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Partnerships with countries in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

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Partnerships with countries in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

The European Union (EU) has concluded bilateral partnership and cooperation agreements with certain member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The objective of these agreements is to develop the sustainable development of these partner countries and to encourage regional cooperation.


Council Decisions 94/578/EC, 95/129/EC, 96/354/EC, 2001/332/EC and 2004/870/EC concerning the conclusion of the cooperation agreements between the European Community, of the one part, and of the other part, the Republic of India, the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the Kingdom of Nepal, the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, respectively.


Between 1994 and 2004, the European Union (EU) concluded five similar cooperation agreements with five countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC): Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

These agreements aim to develop the cooperation ties between the partners, while ensuring a respect for human rights and promoting democratic principles.

The main cooperation objectives concern:

  • trade, with the aim of increasing, diversifying and liberalising trade. Therefore, the parties must improve the opening up of their respective markets, and enhance their cooperation in customs matters in accordance with the principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO);
  • economy, in order to improve the business environment, dialogue between economic operators, information exchange, and entrepreneur training;
  • sustainable development, specifically for social progress and combating poverty. The EU must support the progress of partners in the fields of health, education, improving the standard of living, and promoting the role of women in society;
  • the development of human resources, vocational qualifications and the promotion of international standards on decent work;
  • rural development, increasing trade in agricultural, fisheries and farmed products, including the improvement of sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

The Agreements also provide specific objectives depending on the different needs of the country for:

  • scientific and technological cooperation, which should lead to improvements in the technical assistance with Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh’s quality and control standards, and the launching of joint research projects, the mobility of researchers, and exchanges of scientific information (particularly in the fields of bio-technology, new materials and geosciences) with India;
  • environmental protection, particularly to support Pakistan and Nepal in natural resource management, erosion and deforestation; Bangladesh for reducing the risks of natural disasters; Sri Lanka for preventing industrial pollution, and India for drafting and implementing environmental legislation, research and training;
  • improving the environment for private investment with India, Nepal and Sri Lanka;
  • developing industry and services with India and Pakistan;
  • protecting intellectual property rights with India and Sri Lanka;
  • cooperation in the fields of information, culture and communications with Pakistan and Bangladesh;
  • promoting the energy sector with India, Pakistan and Nepal, recognising the importance of the energy sector for their economic and social development;
  • combating drug trafficking and money laundering, particularly with Pakistan and Bangladesh using special measures against the production and trafficking of drugs, and also the prevention of drug abuse;
  • tourism with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, particularly through studies and information exchange.


SAARC is a regional cooperation organisation, established in 1985 in order to accelerate the economic and social development of its Member States. These Member States are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The EU has observer member status in the organisation, as does Burma/Myanmar, China, South Korea, the United States, Iran, Japan and Mauritius.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 94/578/EC Republic of India



OJ L 223 of 27.8.1994

Decision 95/129/EC the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka



OJ L 85 of 19.4.1995

Decision 2004/870/EC, Islamic Republic of Pakistan



OJ L 378 of 23.12.2004

Decision 2001/332/EC People's Republic of Bangladesh



OJ L 118 of 27.4.2001

Decision 96/354/EC Kingdom of Nepal



OJ L 137 of 8.6.1996


Communication concerning the entry into force, in trade between the European Community and the countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), of the provisions laid down in Commission Regulation (EEC) No 2454/93, as amended by Regulation (EC) No 1602/2000, concerning the definition of the concept of 'originating products' for the purpose of applying tariff preferences granted by the Community to certain products from developing countries (regional cumulation of origin)) [OJ C 265 of 15.9.2000].

See also

Last updated: 27.09.2011