“The EU stands with India in times of need”: op-ed article by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

The EU has long been a reliable partner for India, and we are proving this once again. As soon as India requested support, the EU and its member states came together to help

On Saturday, the leaders of the 27 European Union (EU) member states, the president of the European Council, and I will meet virtually with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It illustrates the importance that the EU attaches to its partnership with India, and demonstrates our solidarity with the Indian people as they fight the coronavirus.

Coronavirus has swept the planet in unrelenting waves. Europe has been hit hard and today, we witness a deterioration of the situation in India. My heart goes out to all who have lost loved ones, and my thoughts are with the heroic frontline workers.

The EU has long been a reliable partner for India, and we are proving this once again. As soon as India requested support, the EU and its member states came together to help. We activated our EU civil protection mechanism in one of its biggest-ever response operations. This is what friends do in times of need.

The European Commission is coordinating and co-financing the delivery of urgently needed medical equipment such as oxygen cylinders, concentrators and plants, ventilators and antiviral drugs provided by 16 EU member-states. We are working with the Indian authorities to make sure that these critical items are distributed quickly to the hospitals in need, saving lives. The EU has more shipments in the pipeline for the coming days.

This “Team Europe” assistance is altogether worth over €100 million. In addition, the European Commission has announced an immediate initial €2.2 million contribution to the World Health Organization, for additional testing and patient care capacity in India. Our message is clear — we are with you in your time of need.

Important as this support may be, we need to look beyond the current emergency. Building global health preparedness and resilience is at the heart of today’s EU-India Leaders Meeting. Defeating the coronavirus through global cooperation and solidarity remains our common priority. We share the commitment to work together to ensure a better, safer, sustainable and inclusive recovery.

A first step is universal, safe, equitable and affordable access to coronavirus vaccines, diagnostics and treatments. The EU substantially contributes to the world’s vaccines production and to the COVAX Facility, and let me recognise and praise India’s efforts to produce and distribute vaccines to over 90 countries through “Vaccine Maitri”.

But it will take more to “build back better” in the wake of the pandemic. We need to jointly take on the formidable challenge of climate change and biodiversity loss. At our leaders’ meeting, I hope that we will agree to cooperate more closely with India on all aspects of the green and digital transformations. We also need to exploit the untapped potential of EU-India trade, and I am confident that we can overcome barriers that existed in the past. Last, the EU and India are key partners in strengthening the rules-based international order and working towards a safer, more prosperous and democratic world. The leaders’ meeting will boost our cooperation in all these areas.

Out of this pandemic, we need to forge stronger global solidarity, beyond our determination to beat the coronavirus. EU and India are like-minded partners. We must work together to shape the global agenda.

The article was published in Hindustan Times on 7 May 2021.


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