Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in a European Council (EU) meeting as a special invitee via video-conference on Saturday with leaders of the 27-member bloc pledging support to India, which is reeling from a devastating second wave of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
PM Modi thanked EU and its member states for their “continued commitment to strengthening relationship with India”. “I also thank my friend Prime Minister @antoniocostapm for this initiative and according high priority to India during Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council,” Modi tweeted, tagging Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who hosted the meeting.
In a series of tweets, Modi said the India-EU “collaboration is essential to stopping the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring a sustainable and inclusive recovery in a more digital and greener world”.
“Our stronger partnership is essential for achieving peace and prosperity for our peoples. We welcomed the resumption of negotiations for Trade and Investment Agreements, as well as our new Connectivity Partnership,” he tweeted.
Modi attended the event at the invitation of European Council President Charles Michel, who he tagged in another tweet along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Taking forward the commitment to transform India-EU relationship for global good, I had a virtual interaction with all leaders of EU Member States and Presidents @CharlesMichel @eucopresident and @vonderleyen for India-EU Leaders’ Meeting.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 8, 2021
The meeting was significant since it was the first such interaction between the Indian PM and the entire 27-member bloc since the free-trade negotiations were deadlocked over several issues eight years ago. The 27 leaders of EU have met in this format only once before, with the US President in March this year.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “Today’s meeting with Narendra Modi could not be more timely. The EU stands at India’s side in this most challenging time. We will also discuss how to further strengthen our strategic partnership. The EU and IN can achieve a lot more by working “Ek Saath” – together."
During the meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron said India helped humanity by exporting key supplies to many countries, according to sources. Spainsh PM Pedro Sánchez recalled India’s help when his country was being ravaged by the pandemic last year, the sources said. They added that Belgian PM Alexander De Croo greeted PM Modi, asking “Kem Chho" (the Gujarati for ‘how are you’). All leaders thanked PM Modi for medical supplies they received, even as they expressed solidarity with the people of India and committed to providing all support they could.
“We deeply condoled the loss of lives and expressed the deepest sympathy with the families of the victims of this pandemic in India, Europe and the rest of the world,” a joint statement on the India-EU leaders’ meeting said.
“India appreciated the EU’s & its Member States’ quick support & assistance, coordinated through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, thus keeping the spirit of solidarity and cooperation that has been the hallmark of India-EU relations,” it added.
PM Modi and Portugal’s Costa held a meeting ahead of the summit; Portugal currently holds the Presidency of the Council of EU. In a joint op-ed piece in Politico, they said the India-EU leaders’ meeting is an opportunity to expand cooperation in new areas of decisive importance for the development of contemporary societies and economies.
“India’s role as a major regional and global player is set to continue to expand over the coming years, and a strengthened partnership would offer Europe an opportunity to diversify relations in a strategic region of the world," Modi and Costa said.