Youth Forum on Foreign Policy (YFFP), an independent initiative to encourage dialogue on foreign policy amongst the youth, organized a joint conference with European Union’s EU in India, held on 23rd February. The panel for the conference consisted of Ms. Anne Marchal, First counsellor of the Delegation of the European Union to India, BW Businessworld’s CEO, Mr. Anurag Batra and Member of Parliament and co- founder of YFFP, Mr. Gaurav Gogoi.
The conference then commenced with a presentation by Ms. Anne Marchal, highlighting the salient features and functions of the European Union. EU was formed after the Second World War and since then it has been the biggest transnational democracy in the world with 24 official languages and flourishing trade relations all over the world. Similar to the foundations of India, EU has a well endowed parliamentary system of legislations with 751 seats, along with various political parties contesting in elections. The EU’s Council of Ministers consists of a member from each EU state and at present they are all under Dutch Presidency, to be rotated every 6months.
India and EU have had strategic relations for over 50 years, the most important highlights being the EU- India security cooperation agreement, Joint Action Plan and annual EU and India security dialogue with emphasis on cyber security and nuclear non proliferation.
The discussion then continued with Mr. Anurag Batra taking the lead, voicing his concern about the areas needing improvement in the EU – India agreement. For example, the free trade agreement, including goods and services to be made easier from both sides as many Indian products fail to match up to the European regulatory standards because of different packaging or processing techniques, among other things. The flow of conversation also steered towards EU being the largest donor of development aid in the world and is still yet to aid India in its Human Development projects. A few other points were raised by Mr. Batra, regarding the ban on import of generic drugs from India to EU states and high taxes and import duties which hinders trade between the two countries. At present, India’s 18% exports are to EU and the number could steadily improve if both the sides agree upon common standards of processing products and aim at minimising difficulties in the trading process. He ended by adding that EU has been India’s “real and steady partner” for many years and he hopes to see the relations flourish even further.
Picking up the discussion from then on, Mr. Gaurav Gogoi, started off with a show of gratitude to Ms. Anne for hosting YFFP and the audience and enabling the youth a glimpse into the EU – India relations. He then went to enunciate the similarities India and EU have had from their inception itself, and how both countries stem from the same belief of “unity in diversity”. Mr. Gogoi went on to say that when India was torn up by its own diversity post independence, EU emerged as a source of inspiration in that turmoil. He personally finds the framework of EU ‘fascinating’ as he has visited the EU Parliament in the past, and he also feels envious of their canteen, he wittily added.
The discussion then came to an end, after inviting a few questions from the audience, who raised pertinent issues such as limited employment prospects of Indian students in EU states, development aid for north east India and EU’s contributions and the growing threat of terrorism and the refugee crisis which many EU states are facing, among others. The event ended with a vote of thanks for the panellists and the audience followed by evening tea.
DU Beat is the official media partner of YFFP.
Featured Image Credits: Youth Forum on Foreign Policy