President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, hailed India as the world’s largest democracy and drew comparisons with Europe. In her address at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi on April 25, she said that both India and the European Union (EU) share fundamental values and common interests as both believe in rule of law and fundamental rights.

“Every five years, when Indians cast their vote in Parliamentary elections, the world watches with admiration as the world’s largest democracy charts its future path because the outcome of decisions made by 1.3 billion people resonates around the globe”, she said.

As vibrant democracies, India and the European Union share common values and interests.

But our values are not shared by everyone.

So let’s address, jointly, the rising challenges to our open and free societies.

My address @Raisinadialogue ↓ — Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) April 25, 2022

The EU President, who is here to deepen ties with New Delhi in the areas of trade, climate, and digital technology, said that India also shares similar interests with the EU over safe trading routes, seamless supply chains, and a free and open Indo-Pacific. Calling Europe’s partnership with India a ‘priority’, Ursula von der Leyen said that “both economies thrive in a world of common rules and fair competition”.

Earlier in the day, she also engaged in a half-hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a joint statement released later, the duo agreed to tackle challenges at the nexus of trade, trusted technology and security. Both sides also shared mutual views on the rapid changes in the geopolitical environment in an apparent reference to the Ukraine war and highlighted the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement.

EU president addresses Ukraine crisis

The EU leader also addressed the Ukraine crisis and recalled seeing dead bodies and mass graves in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. “These are severe violations of international law, targetting and killing innocent civilians, redrawing borders by force, and subjugating the will of free people,” she stated. Vowing to make sure Russia fails in its “unprovoked and unjustified aggression”, the European Commission president said that the crisis is also impacting the peace and security of the Indo-pacific region.

“What happens in Ukraine will have an impact on the Indo-Pacific region. It already has. Countries battered by two years of COVID pandemic must deal now with rising prices for grain, energy, and fertilisers as a direct result of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war of choice”, she said.

Moreover, she also assured that the West would “encourage Beijing to play its part in a peaceful and thriving Indo-Pacific region” and admitted that the relationship between the EU and China is strategically important yet challenging.