Tomasz Kozlowski, a Polish diplomat, has been posted in New Delhi since 2015 as Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union in New Delhi representing its 28 member states. After the last summit meeting on October 6, 2017 in New Delhi between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, they decided to strengthen their strategic partnership with enhanced cooperation in foreign and security policy, trade, transport, research and innovation, energy and environment.
The EU today, with a population of 500 million, is the largest economy in the world and, for its success in peacefully uniting so many countries, it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview with INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS policy journal:
Q. How would you describe the present state of EU-India ties and its future, especially in the context of Brexit and the stalled BTIA?
A. The current state of EU-India relations is very good and in an upward trajectory. In the last few years, we have made significant steps towards strengthening our cooperation with intensified dialogues at all levels backed up by concrete and very practical measures, supporting India’s own vision for economic modernization and peace and stability in the region. We are working closely together on a broad range of issues, ranging from foreign and security policy to counter-terrorism, trade and investment, connectivity, circular economy and research and innovation.
The multi-polar world order, that has been taking shape at an accelerated pace in the past years, bears tremendous opportunities but can also be a source of competition and instability. In such an environment, we all need partners and friends to further our common interests and to protect public goods. Multilateralism and forging strategic partnerships with like-minded countries is the way to conduct affairs. The EU and India are natural allies in this world. There is a greater strategic convergence on global and regional issues. we are both ardent defenders of multilateralism, and committed to protecting global goods and tackling global challenges, like climate change. We have the same vision for maintaining regional security, from the importance of maintaining the Iran nuclear deal to furthering democracy, as in the Maldives.
Brexit will not affect our relationship with India. Even after Brexit, the EU will remain India’s largest trading and investment partner. As for BTIA, the EU and India agree that there are good arguments for having a Free Trade and Investment Agreement. We have been working on all levels, politically and on expert-level into that direction, even if negotiations have not been started formally. Sooner or later we will have such an agreement. However, let me also stress that our trade does not hinge on BTIA. We are and will remain India’s biggest trading partner and one of the biggest sources of investments, whether we conclude such an agreement in the near future or not.
Q. What would you term as the common value systems of the EU and India and what are the fundamental points of difference?
A. The whole world is going through a moment of fundamental change. Some are questioning multilateralism and prefer unilateral action. These convulsions have strengthened the view that EU and India have to work together. As the world’s largest democracies, we share a desire to work together to support a rules-based global order that upholds international norms, global peace and stability.
Q. Despite close business, political and cultural ties with individual countries, the EU did not rank high in India’s political and popular perceptions. Has poor media interest hurt perceptions of each other?
A. This is no longer an accurate description of the situation. Mutual perceptions are very positive and awareness and knowledge about each other has increased significantly. India plays an increasing role in EU’s policy planning; also India perceives the EU as a relevant and important partner for its economic and social modernisation and for dealing with global and international challenges.
As far as media coverage is concerned, there is always room for improvement, but I believe India’s growing importance as an economic and political actor has been well reported in Europe and, in consequence, the number of European correspondents in India has increased.
Q. How important are human rights in the bilateral dynamics? India’s perception is that EU is often intrusive in its value judgements?
A. Support to human rights protection is indeed an integral part of the EU’s Foreign Policy. We see India as a partner in our efforts to internationally strengthen human rights and to defend democratic values.
Indeed, during the last Summit, our leaders reiterated the importance they attach to human rights cooperation, including on gender equality and women empowerment and supported enhancing interaction in international fora, in particular the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. We are very keen on furthering our dialogue with India on Human rights and to deepen our cooperation.
Q. Where is BTIA stuck in your reckoning?
A. There are strong arguments for freeing trade and the EU remains committed to negotiating an ambitious and mutually-beneficial FTA with India. However, we have yet to get an understanding of our mutual ambitions for such an agreement and to start formally any negotiations.
Following the last EU-India Summit, both sides held exploratory talks at chief negotiator and experts’ level to see whether there was sufficient understanding on the level of ambition and scope to resume the FTA negotiations. Both sides are still assessing the situation. I am confident that we may start the negotiations soon.
Q. How is Agenda 2020 progressing? Is it likely to meet its deadlines?
A. The implementation of the Agenda 2020, our vision for EU-India cooperation, is going well and we see progress in all areas, from foreign and security issues, economic cooperation, research and innovation and furthering people-to-people contacts. Progress has been measured by concrete results and activities, and we are seeing an unprecedented level of cooperation in all sectors between the EU and India.
Q. What are the main areas of cooperation between India and the EU presently?
A. The EU has become a crucial partner in all key sectors for India’s modernization and growth agenda. Our cooperation is exceptionally broad and deep running.
I will mention only a few sectors of particular relevance:
Furthering Clean Energy Solutions and fighting Climate Change,
All water-related issues, including researching and implementing solutions for clean drinking water, and better waste water management
Devising concepts and forging partnerships for Smart and Sustainable Urbanization
Developing Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Strategy
Improving Air quality
Research in vaccines
Building on individual strengths, competencies and technologies of our 28 European Member States, and mobilizing government institutions, businesses and civil society alike, the EU has a wealth of expertise, financing and partnership solutions to offer. We are working with our Indian partners to adapt and tailor them to the Indian context and Indian needs.
Q. Though the term ‘strategic partnership’ has become cliched in diplomatic parlance, how important do you rate this partnership with India?
A. Our relations have reached an unprecedented quality and I am confident that this is only the beginning. The European Union has an interest in a strong, prosperous India with whom we can expand our trade, cooperate in research and innovation and with whom we can work for international peace and security.
India is definitely on the rise and we are determined to support India in its ambitions. India has experienced and will continue to experience an impressive and consistent economic growth with strong demographic dynamism. India, its government and the entire Indian society display an impressive drive for modernisation. I am sure we have yet to see the best of EU-India relations.