Selling EU to India

While India was coming to terms with the devastating earthquake in Gujarat, Christopher Patten, European commissioner for external affairs, was on a scheduled visit to India. Here on a ‘mission’ to create awareness about the EU (European Union), Patten met a series of top Indian officials and addressed the intelligentsia. Akrita Reyar caught up with the diplomat.

While India was coming to terms with the devastating earthquake in Gujarat, Christopher Patten, European commissioner for external affairs, was on a scheduled visit to India. Here on a ‘mission’ to create awareness about the EU (European Union), Patten met a series of top Indian officials and addressed the intelligentsia. Akrita Reyar caught up with the diplomat. Enumerating the several strengths of the EU, like being the largest trading group and advantages of the single market, monetary unity and political stability, Patten said, “European Union had grown to become an unparalleled success.” Patten pointed out that the EC already accounted for 55% of all international trade and 66% of the total grant aid. The major challenge that the EU had been able to successfully tackle was that of pioneering regional integration, of pooling and balancing national sovereignty against the need for common structures and disciplines, for achieving greater good. This, he felt, could be the greatest lesson EU could offer the world. Responding to a query about unfair trade practices of the developed world and barriers against labour intensive products, Patten emphasised the faith EU had in multilateralism. He advocated forums like the WTO, despite all their shortcomings, to solve these problems. Clearly unhappy with certain US policies, Patten admitted that EU was chalking out a more comprehensive foreign policy that would help contain any outbreak of conflict in the region. Best remembered for his stint as the last Governor of Hong Kong, Patten cleverly dodged any question relating to Indo-China. When asked to give advice to Indian diplomats, due to his deep insight into the Chinese mind, Patten merely said, “My advice not just to Indian diplomats but all diplomats around the world would be to be honest in their dealing with any party.”

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