Earlier this week, the EU suspended plans for a trade deal with China and is now reviving efforts for a similar pact with India.
Both the EU and India are wrestling with the growing power of China – and China’s rise is inevitably set to bring Brussels and Delhi closer together, be it in trade, infrastructure partnerships or regional security.
The idea: to join forces to develop an alternative to the Chinese Silk Road initiative.
At the same time, Delhi’s growing rivalry with Beijing, manifested through repeated violent clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the border in the Himalayas over the past year or so, has led to a strategic reorientation.
“We are experiencing an alignment of strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific region,” an EU diplomat said ahead of the summit. The EU’s recently adopted Indo-Pacific strategy is one of many signs of this.
In his letter of invitation to European leaders, European Council President Charles Michel said the summit will focus on “strengthening EU-India cooperation” and forging a “strategic partnership” between the two sides.
The Porto summit could be a “watershed moment” for EU-India relations to push for stronger health cooperation in the context of the pandemic, enhanced cooperation on trade and investment, and a partnership on connectivity, the country’s envoy to Brussels, Santosh Jha, told us in an exclusive interview ahead of Porto.
“The EU is India’s natural and preferred partner in its developmental endeavours and at the global stage,” Jha said.
Both in India and in Europe, however, it is clear that the talks are likely to be extremely difficult: Between 2007 and 2013, both sides negotiated a free trade agreement in vain, with talks collapsing after no agreement was foreseeable even after 16 rounds of negotiations.
Last week, EU lawmakers adopted a report calling on the EU and India to work together to tackle geopolitical challenges in view of the upcoming Saturday summit.
“The EU should first and foremost seek to strengthen and stabilise a multilateral, rules-based international order. Increased cooperation with India is an important means to that end,” rapporteur MEP Alviina Alametsä (Greens/EFA), told EURACTIV.
She stressed, however, that the EU “should describe the EU’s foreign policy choices simply as an attempt to mitigate some other country such as China – it would be too simplistic.”
But India has always been a difficult partner and Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalists are not making it any easier. EU officials have expressed concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in India.
Asked if there is concern that relations with India could arrive at the same point as with China regarding human rights, Alametsä said that “expectations for a human rights discussion with India in a very different way than with China” as Delhi “shares the same understanding of human rights as its Western counterparts” contrary to Beijing.
EU IN THE WORLD
EU-KOREA. Climate change is likely to be a key area to strengthen cooperation between the Republic of Korea and the EU in the coming years, the country’s ambassador to Brussels, Yoon Soon-gu, told EURACTIV in an interview about multilateralism, climate cooperation and the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
MERCOSUR PRESSURE. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has urged the European Commission to do everything in its power to move forward and unfreeze progress on the Mercosur pact to send a “political signal” to China about the EU’s economic commitment to Latin America.
GLOBAL COFEU. The Conference on the Future of Europe can catalyse much-needed reflection on how to revamp the EU’s external action. But most importantly, if the EU wants to secure its position as a top-tier geopolitical player, it should overcome self-doubt and learn by doing, writes former EU chief diplomat Javier Solana in a commentary for EURACTIV.
POST-PACIFIST SHIFT. In a first major international appearance, Greens’ candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock said her country must be more active on foreign policy and take more responsibility for its own security, in a sign the party is shifting away from its traditionally pacifist stance towards the centre and more pragmatic policies, hand in hand with a generational change inside the party.
MILITARY MOBILITY. EU defence ministers agreed this week to allow the United States, Norway, and Canada to join the bloc’s project on military mobility, seen as the ‘silver bullet’ for EU-NATO defence cooperation and designed to ensure seamless movement of military equipment across the EU in response to crises.
It is the first time that the EU will allow outside countries to join its so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework of 46 military projects and is a sign of improving EU-NATO cooperation. Are more to come? Well, not exactly.
MOZAMBIQUE MISSION. The EU must move with “urgency” to step up its support for Mozambique, as it battles against a wave of attacks by Islamic insurgents, by sending a military training mission to work with local soldiers, the EU’s chief diplomat said as EU defence ministers showed political will to move towards a potential non-executive training mission in the country.
RAPID RESPONSE. Fourteen EU countries, including Germany and France, have proposed a rapid military response force that could intervene early in international crises, a senior EU official said on Wednesday, two decades after a previous attempt. For many security watchers, it came a bit out of the blue…
CYBER-SEC. The heads of the European and French cybersecurity agencies have called for more cooperation between EU countries and additional resources, pointing to much higher spending on cybersecurity across the Atlantic.
COD WARS II. Nothing stirs Anglo-Gallic passions quite like the sight of gunboats in the Channel. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sent two Navy patrol vessels to Jersey over concerns that French fishermen could blockade its main port in an escalating post-Brexit row.
The presence in the waters around Jersey – one of the picturesque Channel Islands that provides offshore banking to the mega-rich – is the latest act in the Brexit farce.
PATENTS SURPRISE. In a major shift on intellectual property rights, the US administration has backed lifting patents of COVID-19 vaccines in order to speed up vaccination of those in need worldwide. Europe had been reluctant about this option but EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced Europe is now looking into it.
SUMMITRY UPDATE. US President Joe Biden said he would like to hold his proposed summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his June trip to Europe. So far, Biden plans to attend a G7 summit in Cornwall, England, set for 11-13 June, and then fly to Brussels to meet EU leaders and attend a 14 June NATO summit.
BALKAN BORDERS. The US and the EU this week expressed support for the territorial borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have recently been called into question, and for the UN envoy to the country, who has been criticised by Russia. In a statement, G7 leaders said that “unwarranted speculation about border changes along ethnic lines is no solution to the challenges faced by the region.”
NEW METHODOLOGY. EU member states have approved the implementation of the new, revised methodology in the accession negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro, EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi announced.
CAI BYE? European trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said this week that efforts to win approval for a proposed massive investment deal with China were effectively “suspended” after tit-for-tat sanctions were imposed by both sides.
While the European Parliament and some diplomats in Brussels seem satisfied, the EU said it is not seeking an escalation of tensions with China, and the situation with a stalled investment agreement is less dramatic than people think.
EU-KAZAKHSTAN. Ahead of the EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council on 10 May, EURACTIV spoke to an EU official to gather information about the EU’s expectations for the cooperation with Kazakhstan and with Central Asia in the years to come. Read our Special Report about the next issues on the EU-Kazakhstan agenda.
DETAINED POWs. More than 120 members of the European Parliament have urged the EU to increase pressure on Azerbaijan to release Armenian prisoners of war captured last year in fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh.
WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING
- Germany and Defense – The Next Five Years [DGAP]
- China’s Disappeared Uyghurs: What Satellite Images Reveal [RAND]
- Secondary Sanctions and Multilateralism – the Way Ahead [Egmont Institute]
- Who is afraid of Iran’s Faezeh Hashemi? [Atlantic Council]
ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS…
- EU-India Leaders meeting
| Saturday, 8 May 2021 | Porto, Portugal (virtual)
- European Council on COVID-19, external relations and social affairs
| Saturday, 8 May 2021 | Porto, Portugal
- Foreign Affairs Council on Western Balkans, plus John Kerry intermezzo
| Monday, 10 May 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
- European Parliament’s AFET Committee with EU-India debrief, draft reports on EU-China, EU-US and public hearing on Russia
| Monday, 10 May 2021 | Brussels, Belgium