No limits to Russia-China friendship, warns EU chief amid Ukraine crisis 

European Commission’s President seeks “diplomatic solution” to Ukraine crisis

April 25, 2022 10:05 pm | Updated April 26, 2022 11:30 am IST - NEW DELH

European Commission president Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen speaks during the Raisina Dialogue 2022, in Delhi on April 25, 2022.

European Commission president Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen speaks during the Raisina Dialogue 2022, in Delhi on April 25, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The friendship between Russia and China has “no limits”, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said here on Monday.

Addressing the inaugural session at the annual Raisina Dialogue, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar, she condemned the Russian aggression in Ukraine but also supported the need to find a “diplomatic solution” to the crisis. Ms. von der Leyen highlighted the common links like democracy and the rule of law that bind European states and India.

“They have declared that the friendship between them has ‘no limits’; that there are ‘no forbidden areas of cooperation; this was in February this year. And then, the invasion of Ukraine followed. What can we expect from the ‘new international relations’ that both have called for?” asked Ms von der Leyen, who described the current relation between Russia and China as an “unrestrained pact”.

The top diplomat of the European Commission recollected her recent visit to Ukraine where she witnessed the ravages of the ongoing conflict and expressed Europe’s collective determination to ensure “strategic failure” of Russia in Ukraine.

Strategy of sanctions

She clarified that the strategy to impose sanctions on Russia is not a “standalone solution”. “They are embedded in a broader strategy that has diplomatic and security elements. And this is why we have designed the sanctions in a way to sustain them over a longer period of time. Because this gives us leverage to achieve a diplomatic solution that will bring lasting peace,” she said.

Indicating Russia’s strong ties with China, Ms. von der Leyen argued that the violence in Ukraine is generating ripples in the Indo-Pacific region.

”China is a negotiating partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival. We will continue to cooperate on tackling common challenges, and we will protect our essential interests and promote our values,” said Ms. von der Leyen who earlier in the day met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and held a discussion with External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar.

Lauds India

The visiting top official of the European Commission paid tributes to the democratic tradition of India and said that the “world watches with admiration” whenever India holds the general elections every five years.

“Democracy was born more than 2,000 years ago in Europe. But today, its largest home is India,” Ms. von der Leyen said. The top representative of the European Commission said both India and the European Union share common interests in maintaining “safe trading routes, in seamless supply chains, and in a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Ms. von der Leyen projected India and the European Union as part of the global group that supports rule of law and urged stronger partnership between the EU and the ASEAN countries. Earlier in the day, Mr Modi received Ms von der Leyen and exchanged ideas on the strategy to combat climate change and build closer partnership in areas like Green Hydrogen.

The Ministry of External Affairs, in an official press statement, said the two leaders discussed the progress in the India-EU Strategic Partnership, including the forthcoming re-commencement of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement and Investment Agreement. Both sides also agreed to start a high-level trade and Technology Commission that will increase coordination between the political leadership and other stakeholders. “The EU has only one Trade and Technology Council (commission) and that is with the U.S. and I think, therefore, it is telling that it was so important for us to put up a second... with India,” she said.

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