14 April 2021
Thank you for your invitation. I appreciate this opportunity to share my thoughts on where we are today and the relationship between India and the European Union.
The timing is perfect: an important EU-India summit will take place in just three weeks, in Portugal, where we will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both sides are intensely preparing this meeting. India often comes up in the debates of the European Council, even when it is not on the agenda. Why is that?
The world order
Because in a world that is more interconnected, more competitive and less stable, like-minded countries tend to look out for each other and join forces.
We see more clearly than ever the need for global cooperation and for a rules-based international order. Unfortunately, not everyone is choosing this path.
In many ways, the path of the future world order will be set in the Indo-Pacific region. This region has become a global economic and political centre of gravity, and the EU is closely linked to it, through trade, investment and mobility. We have a large stake in its freedom, openness and stability. The EU is about to set out for the first time a comprehensive, strategic approach to your region.
As the two largest democracies in this challenging landscape, India and the European Union are key partners. We can, and we should, do much more together.
First, to make the world a better, fairer and safer place. We value human rights, equal opportunities, gender equality, and the rule of law. We share the same multilateralist DNA. The EU is the result of a patient association of sovereign countries. We are united by our will to join forces and cooperate, based on commonly agreed rules.
Second, it is in our mutual interest to maximise the untapped potential of trade and investment between our two major economies. Concretely, we propose to focus on four strands of cooperation: Covid-19; climate change; economic cooperation; and security and peace.
As we speak, the most pressing challenge is COVID-19 and the production of vaccines and their delivery to all regions and countries of the world. Both India and Europe are major producers of vaccines. Together, through Covax, we also support low and middle income countries in their vaccination efforts. Thanks to our joint efforts, Covax has delivered more than 38 million doses to 100 countries across the globe.
We all know that ramping up the production of vaccines is an enormous challenge. We all need each other: for components, equipment, and fill and finish vials, for instance. This is why we must make sure that our supply chains remain open and resilient. This includes expanding global manufacturing capacity in the pharmaceutical sector, as well as in developing countries.
In the longer term, we must be better prepared. This is why I have launched the idea of an international treaty on pandemics, which would be anchored in the World Health Organisation. With Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, we have already gathered the support of 26 leaders from the 5 continents.
Climate change and digital transition
The EU was the first to commit to climate neutrality by 2050. This is a pledge to our people. But also to the rest of the world. Our European Green Deal, along with our Digital Agenda, is at the heart of our economic recovery strategy.
Yet, fighting climate change and stopping the loss of biodiversity requires the leadership of all major economies. This is why we are striving for a joint EU-India commitment to green growth, circular economy and clean energy. These will be needed all over the world and will create jobs and economic opportunities.
We want to be a leader in the digital revolution – in industrial data, connected objects and artificial intelligence. But in this transition, we must avoid the mistakes of the past: namely, abusing our digital resources like we abused our natural resources.
In this field, like in others, the EU has developed a global, standard-setting capacity, the so-called “Brussels effect”. I propose that we work together, with like-minded partners, on this democratic digital standard. And I see India as a key partner in this endeavour.
Investment, trade and connectivity
The EU is India’s first trading partner and foreign investor. We are ready to develop our huge potential for more trade, more jobs and more growth. This will make our economies more resilient.
Security and peace
The EU is not just an economic partner – we are also determined to play our role in the security of the Indo-Pacific region. We are engaged in securing peace in Afghanistan. We call for restoring the democratic process in Myanmar. On Iran, the EU played a key role and we remain a strong defender of the JCPOA.
Nuclear proliferation is still a major concern, including the nuclear activities of North Korea. Some 40% of our trade passes through the Indian Ocean. So, we have a strong interest in maritime security in the region.
Our friendship, and partnership with India, is a cornerstone of our geopolitical strategy. We are determined to further develop the ties between our peoples. It is in our common interest to show that the democratic and open model is the most powerful one to address the challenges of the world. Thank you for your attention, and I wish you fruitful debates.