The 12th India-European Union (EU) summit, which will start in New Delhi on February 10, comes at a time of global economic uncertainty. In a complex international order, with heightened political and economic interdependence, this annual meeting is more relevant than ever.
We are the world’s two biggest democracies and our strategic partnership provides us with a solid basis for working together to increase shared prosperity and for responding to global challenges.
India and the EU are also two major economic partners. Despite the recent global turmoil, our bilateral trade in goods grew by 20% between 2010 and 2011. However, we are convinced that major trade opportunities are still ahead of us. The Free Trade Agreement currently under negotiation, by many aspects the world’s largest ever, will help to consolidate and reinvigorate this upward trend. We believe that, once concluded, this ambitious agreement will serve our common objective of a more balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth. It will send a strong signal to the rest of the world that a major part of the answer to economic uncertainties comes also from trade, and not from increased protectionism.
Investment and trade are key components to ensure growth. But they are not the only ones. Domestic transformations are also crucial. India has continued to make impressive progress towards economic modernisation while improving the quality of life of large segments of its population. Prosperity is also closely linked with increasing the levels of employment, productivity and social inclusion of our citizens, and with access to sustainable energy for all our citizens.
The EU is ready to partner with India in its prosperity journey. More cooperation in higher education, especially in the areas of skills development are key. Since knowledge circulation is one of the most important drivers of innovation, we will do our utmost to deepen links between Indian and European universities. Our cooperation on renewable energy and energy efficiency, with focus on solar energy, but also in the field of research and innovation, will also serve this purpose.
Sustainable development and growth need peace and stability. We have a common interest in defeating terror and extremism, in securing our trade lines from the attacks of pirates, in preventing attacks on our information technology infrastructures, and in successfully facing the challenge of non-proliferation.
The EU is equipped to tackle these security challenges, and would like to seek a closer engagement with India. The intensive work since the last summit, when a joint declaration on terrorism was adopted, provides us with a basis for further cooperation in 2012 in the fields of counter-terrorism, cyber-security, counter-piracy and other aspects of crisis management.
As global powers, we share a responsibility in contributing to international peace and security. Given our mutual commitment to multilateralism, the United Nations serve as the main point of reference for both of us. Furthermore, as the world’s largest democratic communities, we have a vocation in promoting shared values such as representative government, good governance; human rights and the rule of law.
We also need to join efforts to find solutions to growing societal challenges that concern us all, such as sustainable development, energy and water resources, raw materials, disaster management, health and food security. Our continued cooperation is the key to achieving a global, comprehensive and binding climate agreement by 2015 as agreed in Durban. We remain committed to working closely together on the road towards 2015. There is no other way.
Global economic governance is another area where deeper cooperation between the EU and India can also make a significant difference. The EU was one of the promoters of the creation of the G20, reflecting the growing influence of emerging countries like India on world affairs.
We hope that this summit will bring the EU-India Strategic Partnership to new heights and provide the necessary impetus to allow us to grasp the many opportunities for cooperation that emerge from the present global context. The challenging times we are living in offer a real opportunity. We have in our hands the tools to shape a better future for India and the European Union.
(Herman Van Rompuy is president, European Council and José Manuel Barroso is president, European Commission)
The views expressed by the authors are personal