New mechanisms for discussing economic issues, with a particular focus on macroeconomics and financial services, are being set up.
The ninth EU-India summit, hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, opens in Marseilles today. As European Commissioner for External Relations and the Neighbourhood Policy, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on not only EU/India relations — our achievements, but also our ambitions for the future.Vital partner
The European Union views India as a vital partner. The importance we attach to the relationship is reflected in the establishment, in 2004, of the EU/India “Strategic Partnership.” For those less familiar with EU agreements with third countries, Strategic Partnerships are a kind of platinum version — the most comprehensive we can establish.
This year we conducted a joint review of progress to date. It would be an understatement to say that it’s good.
Over the last five years, EU-India Trade has more than doubled, with particularly strong growth of Indian inward investment. But that has not made us complacent. An EU-India wide-reaching Trade and Investment Agreement is currently being negotiated. We are convinced that it will further boost trade between our two economies. We are also setting up new mechanisms for discussing economic issues, with a particular focus on macroeconomics and financial services.
Another area where we look forward to strengthening our cooperation is transport. We will sign a Horizontal Agreement on Civil Aviation at the Summit. A similar agreement on maritime transport should hopefully be concluded before the end of this year.
The strengthening of our political dialogue — through setting up an annual security meeting, Indian membership of ASEM and EU observer status in SAARC — has delivered results. Our cooperation has advanced, even on such sensitive — but as we all know crucial — issues like counter-terrorism.
Fighting poverty and achieving the MDGs — rightly the focus of much debate at the U.N. General Assembly in New York last week — have prompted both India and the EU to step up development cooperation. The EU remains a key partner in India’s major centrally sponsored schemes such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the National Rural Health Mission.
We have been active in the field of culture and higher education. Indian students are well represented in European graduate programmes such as Erasmus Mundus. Another milestone
Economic, technical and scientific cooperation have broadened and deepened, culminating in the renewal of the EU-India Science and Technology Agreement. Another milestone will be reached on October 1, when the newly established European Business and Technology Centre will start to operate. The EBTC will act as a vector for boosting commercial and research links between Europe and India.
An EU-India Energy Panel has been established. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Agreement, to which both India and the EU are parties, has come into force. Lastly, on energy, there is now a Safeguards Agreement between India and the IAEA. This, in addition to the Nuclear Suppliers Group waiver obtained earlier this month, will allow the EU to explore the possibility of working with India in the field of civil nuclear energy.
The final area of cooperation I wanted to mention is Climate Change — one of the major threats of our time. India is a key player in making progress at the next meeting in Poznan, whose success is essential if we are to arrive at a comprehensive post-Kyoto agreement by the end of next year in Copenhagen. At the Summit we will also be taking work forward in this area, agreeing an EU-India Joint Work Programme for Cooperation on Energy, Clean Development and Climate Change.
So why does this week’s summit matter? Because it’s the institutional mechanism for taking this excellent work further — work which is clearly bringing significant benefit to both India and the European Union.
(The writer is European Commissioner for External Relations and the Neighbourhood Policy.)