Jose Manuel Barroso

Principled EU-India cooperation, on trade and on building international security and human rights, can represent an essential contribution to mankind’s future.

The intensification of our Strategic Partnership over the last year demonstrates that India and the European Union are engaged in a very significant undertaking. The importance of our trade relationship is manifest, with Europe the most important destination for Indian exports and the EU and its member states comprising India’s biggest provider of both Foreign Direct Investment and development assistance. Commercial links will grow even more important to both Europe and India with the conclusion of a bilateral India-European Union Free Trade Agreement. The dynamic and vital economic dimension of our relationship, however, is only one aspect of our multifaceted partnership.

For Europe, it is vital to be a partner in India’s economic development and transformation. In the last year we witnessed continued progress on building bilateral cooperation in trade, business and science and technology. We have already considerably expanded and diversified our dialogues, which now range from energy and environment to transport and science and technology. We are committed to expanding dialogue further in 2008 and expect significant progress in fields such as civil aviation, maritime transport, clean and renewable energy — including solar power — employment and labour. We will also establish an EU Business and Technology Centre in Delhi to be a vector for promoting public and private partnerships in business and technology between the EU and India. India’s enormous potential is finally being realised, and EU aid can now focus on India’s economic transition while providing support for India’s efforts to attain Millennium Development Goals. This has led us to take a differentiated approach, providing direct support for health and education, while supporting implementation of our Joint Action Plan, which we believe will help to reduce poverty by promoting economic development. This sort of programme naturally needs solid funding to back it up and this is why we have earmarked €470 million for new cooperation projects from 2007 to 2013.

India and the EU share the challenge of responding to our citizens’ needs and aspirations while contending with pressing global challenges. Helping the international community more effectively to address these challenges must be a core goal of the EU-India Strategic Partnership. As we strive to provide security and opportunity to all, we must also endeavour better to care for the environment of our fragile planet, halt the proliferation of nuclear weaponry, combat terrorism, and find solutions to migration.

Among those global challenges are energy security and mitigating global climate change. The EU perceives real benefits by stimulating innovation and implementing policies that also have non-climate benefits, and has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 to 20 per cent below 1990 levels. We hope we can help India increase investment in energy efficiency and reduce the emission intensity of its economic development. Ahead of the Bali conference, we will work closely with India to strengthen the international framework for dealing with climate change. We have found that investing in a better environment is not incompatible with promoting economic development and we know that if we do not do it, we will pay a heavy future price.

The prosperity and unity that the EU enjoys today are not fortunate accidents of history, but the results of farsighted planning. The vision of Europe’s founders is still being realised, but European integration has already had dramatic and decisive effects. We hope more actively to share the European experience of regional integration with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. The EU is ready to aid the development of a South Asian Free Trade Agreement that helps intraregional trade to realise its potential and fuel South Asia’s development. We plan to foster SAFTA implementation with cooperative projects with SAARC in standards and customs. With India taking over as SAARC Secretary General in 2008, we are expecting a year of intensified and expanded EU-SAARC cooperation.

On the eve of the 8th EU-India Summit, the world’s attention is drawn to political instability in and around South Asia. India’s tradition of democracy and demonstrated commitment to meeting the political, social and economic aspirations of its citizens are unambiguous examples to its neighbours. India’s political maturity and international stature make its leadership critical to addressing the political challenges effectively not only in its neighbourhood — which comprises the diverse challenges in Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka — but on a global scale. Europe looks forward to cooperating with India in bringing peace and stability to the region.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh noted in his Republic Day address, India “has emerged as a bridge” between extremes. Europeans welcome active Indian leadership in international affairs, not only as your friends, but because we realise it is vital to a more stable world. The European Union’s leaders understand that the challenges we confront, from terrorism to climate change, cannot be adequately resolved without meaningful Indian participation. We therefore encourage India’s increasing diplomatic engagement and leadership in South Asia, at the World Trade Organisation, in the United Nations and in other multilateral fora. The EU and India already collaborate in the U.N. and we plan to take this teamwork to higher levels.

As we discuss sensitive political topics, we will inevitably encounter areas in which our approaches initially differ. This reflects the maturing of a unique Strategic Partnership built on a basis of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual commitment. As we advance together, principled and practical EU-India cooperation, not only on trade but on building international security and human rights, can represent an essential contribution to mankind’s future.

(The writer is President, European Commission.)