EU, India step up cooperation on defence, security
The EU and India opened a brand new chapter of political cooperation during the first summit between the 27-country bloc and its Indian partner since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives the European Union a greater role in foreign affairs and security.
Bilateral negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and India started in 2007. Several rounds of consultations have been held so far. During the summit, leaders are expected to review ongoing negotiations and aim to reach an agreement in 2011.
The European Union and India have a long-standing relationship that dates back to the early 1960s. A Joint Political Statement in 1993 and the 1994 Co-operation Agreement, which is the current legislative framework for cooperation, opened the door to a broad political dialogue, which evolves at annual summits and regular meetings of ministers and experts.
In 2004, India became one of the EU's strategic partners, joining a list that also features the United States, Canada, China, Russia and Japan.
This year the EU signed a free-trade pact with South Korea. The deal was signed at an EU-South Korea summit in Brussels on 6 October and will come into force on 1 July 2011.
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As a first step in the improved cooperation agreed at today's summit (10 December), the EU and India signed a joint declaration on international terrorism.
"EU and India stand united in combating threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts," reads the declaration.
Mentioning the London, Madrid and Mumbai attacks, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said terrorism knew no boundaries and a common response was essential.
Without mentioning Pakistan, the declaration underlines that both partners will "encourage all countries to deny safe haven to terrorists and to dismantle terror infrastructure on the territories under their control".
The EU and India agreed that the fight against violent extremism is an important step to fight terrorism. A closer cooperation is envisaged on cybersecurity, exchange of strategic information and law enforcement.
Towards a Free Trade Agreeement
The summit made a leap forward on reaching a free trade and investment agreement by next spring.
The EU is India's primary export destination and overall trade in goods in 2009 amounted to around €52bn.
"We believe it is not enough," said Van Rompuy. "In a still-difficult economic situation and where fiscal and budgetary policies are limited, free trade is a powerful engine in those circumstances to promote sustainable economic growth in two of the largest world economies, where more than one and a half billion people live."
Echoing Van Rompuy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the free trade zone would boost global recovery.
"Over the last seven years, our bilateral trade has doubled. We should build on this momentum! We have recognised during the very interesting discussions today that there is much untapped potential in our economic relationship," he said.
Indian officials reportedly said the free trade agreement could increase bilateral trade to as much as €100bn.
If Europeans hope the trade deal will open India's booming markets to their banking, telecoms and consumer goods industries, India hopes it will give exporters and office service providers access to Europe's population of half a billion.
But the EU has repeatedly said it will back down on labour rights and environmental standards, two of the main sticking points in the negotiations.
EU, India step up cooperation on defence, security | EurActiv