The EU matters, so does its partnership with India - Hindustan Times

The EU matters, so does its partnership with India

May 09, 2024 01:41 AM IST

Mutual respect and management of our differences, and renewed trust in each other will be the best guides for this relationship.

Europe Day, celebrated on May 9, marks the anniversary of the historic Schuman Declaration of 1950 that laid the political foundations of what is now the European Union (EU).

European Union (REUTERS File Photo) PREMIUM
European Union (REUTERS File Photo)

Since then, the EU has developed into a Union of 27 sovereign States and a unique political project of peace and prosperity. Its collective strength is manifested in many ways: Its single market, an area of free movement of goods, services, capital and people has brought concrete benefits to European businesses and consumers. The EU has become the largest trading block in the world with free trade agreements (FTAs) signed with over 40 partners and the main provider and destination of foreign direct investment (FDI). It has also been a major source of global standards, promoting a rule-based and human-centric development of technology as with its General Data Protection Regulation or its recent AI Act. As the main source of official development assistance and global climate financing (contributing over 30% of global climate finance), the EU has supported the multilateral agenda, promoting cooperative solutions to the most pressing global issues.

The EU is going through a challenging yet transformational moment. Peace and security in Europe and beyond are once again under threat. Confronted with Russia’s imperialist authoritarian revisionism, security and defence have become an existential priority for the EU. We will continue to support Ukraine as long as needed to counter Russian aggression. The EU has recently adopted ambitious plans for strengthening the European defence industry.

The EU is committed to stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region in recognition of the increasingly interconnected economic and security theatres. The EU maritime operations ASPIDES and ATALANTA are examples of effective engagement aimed at preserving the security of merchant vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden areas.

While committed to preserving the openness of its economy and society, the EU has adapted to the “weaponisation of everything”, which increasingly characterises geopolitical rivalry. It has strengthened its economic security by promoting its own industry in sectors such as semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and net-zero technologies; by protecting its own market through measures such as anti-coercion and FDI screening legislation; and by partnering to build resilient supply chains, such as critical raw materials or by completing comprehensive FTAs. It has also taken steps to protect its own democracy against foreign interference and manipulation of information as there is growing evidence of foreign destabilisation operations against the EU member States and institutions. This matters even more as 400 million European citizens are called to vote in next month’s European Parliament elections.

Strengthening a cooperative rule-based order and partnerships with other democracies is central to the EU’s strategic agenda in this pivotal moment. India, in this respect, has emerged as an incredibly important strategic partner for the EU over the recent years. The relaunching of FTA negotiations and the setting up of a Trade and Technology Council in 2022 were the clearest signs of the EU’s commitment to invest in this relationship. India matters to the EU as much as we believe the EU matters to India, as a natural and preferred partner. There are now about 50 EU-India bilateral thematic institutional dialogues. But there is space for developing our strategic partnership further.

Our respective businesses stand to benefit from deeper economic and trade ties, which already generate millions of jobs in India. Our cooperation in green and high-tech can turn into a win-win strategy, fostering green transition, building resilient supply chains and reducing over-dependencies on other markets. The pool of talent and knowledge from European and Indian skilled workers stands to benefit from greater mobility, as evidenced by the new Schengen visa rules for Indian travellers and with Indian students and researchers topping the list of EU Erasmus Mundus and Marie Curie exchange programmes. The EU and India have a shared interest in developing connectivity infrastructures in the sub-region and beyond supported by the EU Global Gateway or initiatives such as India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor, to deepen security and defence cooperation and act as bridge-builders of global solutions to development and climate challenges.

As the current EU-India strategic roadmap for 2025 will soon come to term, the perspective of the next EU-India Summit should be used to take our partnership to a new level. Mutual respect and management of our differences, renewed trust in each other and mutual commitment to our shared values and principles will be the best guides for this relationship.

Hervé Delphin is ambassador of the European Union to India. The views expressed are personal

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