Environment, ‘openness’ on priority list as India, EU prepare for summer summit

NEW DELHI: As India and Europe prepare to meet this summer for a special informal summit, both sides are converging on key outcomes at the summit.
On May 8, India, led by prime minister Narendra Modi, will hold a summit meeting with all 27 heads of government of the European Union at the Portuguese city of Porto. The summit will be followed by a bilateral meeting between Modi and the Portuguese PM, Antonio Costa, as well as a business roundtable between Indian and European industry.
European sources said Europe and India are now converging on their national and continental priorities. “We have five priorities. All these are priorities for India,” they said.
These, they described as green transition, digital transition, social transition, resilience and “openness”, a reaffirmation of a multipolar world.
“Europe believes there should be a multipolar Asia because India’s role in Asia is just as important as the relationship between Europe and Asia,” said European officials.
An early February “17+1” summit between China and Eastern European countries saw an unprecedented six dropouts — Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and the three Baltic states — raising eyebrows among China watchers in Europe and Asia.
Last week, Valdis Dombrovskis, commission executive vice-president responsible for trade said, “We recently had a high-level economic dialogue between the EU and India and we are also exploring options on what can be done in the area of trade, keeping in mind the EU-India Summit.” The new trade strategy of the EU also refers to a partnership with India as one of the aims.
Portugal took over the presidency of the EU in January 2021. Interestingly, the first India-EU summit in 2000 was also under a Portuguese presidency, officials pointed out.
Europe has to approve its own climate law, with the aim of becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. Digital transition, they said, is self-explanatory. Social transition has become important in the aftermath of the pandemic, which will include steps to protect citizens from the effects of the pandemic. “We will have a social summit simultaneously on the day of the India summit,” sources said.
Economic resilience is crucial, as economies splutter after the pandemic. But the European side is looking at more than economic resilience as part of their priorities. A reaffirmation of “common values” will be on the cards — “democracy, rule of law and respect for minorities.”
The last priority they list is “openness” — which is interpreted as being as much about pushing back against protectionism as it is about reiterating the importance of a multipolar world.
From the Indian perspective, the summit will give India an opportunity to showcase its commitment to climate, connectivity and trade and investment.
India is one of the big votaries of a multipolar world, particularly a multipolar Asia.
Indo-Pacific is expected to be a focus topic of conversation between the two sides. While India sees itself in the heart of the Indo-Pacific both in terms of geography and geo-strategy, three EU countries — France, Germany and the Netherlands — have published policy papers on the Indo-Pacific. This may get wider acceptance in the coming months.