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India, EU ‘intensely preparing’ for joint summit in May: EU Council chief Charles Michel

Charles Michel said the EU plans to focus on 'four strengths of cooperation' with India — Covid-19, climate change, economic cooperation, and security & peace.

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New Delhi: The European Union (EU) is not just an economic partner of India but is also determined to play a role in the security of the Indo-Pacific region, European Council President Charles Michel said Wednesday.

Speaking at the sixth edition of Raisina Dialogue, jointly organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation, the Belgian politician also said India and the EU are “intensely preparing” for their joint summit on 8 May this year, for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Portugal where the event is scheduled to be held.

The two countries are likely to discuss the long-pending Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), or the free trade agreement, at the summit.

During the 15th India-EU Summit last July, the two put forth a roadmap on counter-terrorism while a high-level trade and investment dialogue was also launched. Modi had also raised the issue of the ongoing border standoff with China during the last summit.

Also read: India a pivotal world player, shares many security challenges with us, says NATO chief

‘Like-minded countries tend to look out for each other’

Michel also stressed the shared democratic ideals between India and the EU. “India often comes up in the debate of the European Council even when its not on the agenda. Why is that?” Michel asked, and went on to answer: “Because in a world that is more interconnected, competitive and less stable, like-minded countries tend to look out for each other and join forces…”

He emphasised the need for rules-based international order and the importance of human rights, equal opportunity, gender equality and the rule of law. “It is in our [India and EU’s] common interest to show that the democratic and open model is the most powerful one to address the challenges of the world,” said Michel.

He also said the EU is working on a comprehensive strategic approach to the Indo-Pacific region.

Four strengths of cooperation

The EU Council president said the EU plans to focus on “four strengths of cooperation” with India: fighting Covid-19, climate change, and boosting economic cooperation, and security and peace.

“Both India and Europe are major producers of vaccines. Together, through Covax, we also support low- and middle-income countries in their vaccination efforts,” he said, noting that Covid-19 is the most pressing issue at this point in time.

Michel also highlighted the need for an international treaty on pandemic-response, which would be anchored in the World Health Organization (WHO), an idea that he floated at the G-20 summit last November. On 31 March, leaders of 23 countries and WHO backed the idea to create a treaty that would help the world deal with future health emergencies.

Michel, former prime minister of Belgium, reminded that the EU has been engaged in restoring peace in Afghanistan even as he also called for the restoration of the democratic process in Myanmar and remained a “strong defender” of the Iran nuclear deal.

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

Also read: India to focus on its own vaccine needs now, ‘repurpose’ production as cases spike: Jaishankar


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