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EU-India Civil Society Round Table meeting in Paris

July 11, 2008

Climate change, migration, trade and investment are the main topics on the agenda of the 12th meeting of the EU-India Round Table which will take place in Paris on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 15-16th.

"India is a very important partner for Europe. The meeting in Paris is very important because there are important topics on the agenda,'' said Dimitris Dimitriadis, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), in Brussels.

Dimitiriadis who visited India twice last year said he is going to exchange ideas with the Indian side on how to promote closer cooperation between the 27-member European bloc and India.

During his recent visit to China, Dimitriadis said he proposed a tripartite meeting between the EU, China and India on climate change.

On her part, Madi Sharma , UK representative of EESC, underlined the important role of civil society in promoting EU-India cooperation and relations.

"Our role, the civil society's role is to bring the voice of the man on the street both in Europe and India to the political decision-making process,'' she said.

Sharma noted that the role of the civil society in India is not yet as strong as it is in Europe, although it is growing dramatically.

She said an India-EU Internet Forum has been created to link up civil society from both sides and thereby expand and deepen India-EU relations.

The Forum was launched last year but "we are now trying to revamp it to be more interactive," added Sharma.

The creation of a Round Table (RT) was based on the idea shared by the former India's Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, and the then European Union Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten, that meetings at the official level were incomplete by themselves, since civil society not only had a word to say on the subjects discussed, but could also help foster mutual understanding and cooperation.

The RT is meant as a permanent forum for discussion and dialogue at civil society level on all questions of the EU-India relations. It is composed of 30 members, 15 from each side.

The RT is chaired by 2 co-chairs: the President of the EESC on the European side and a person of similar eminence from the Indian side.

The Indian co-chairman designated was until June 2008 M. N. N. Vohra who has been appointed Governor of Jammu & Kashmir.

Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, who led the Indian delegation in the negotiations for the UN framework Convention on Climate Change and is currently at the Energy and Resources Institute of New Delhi will chair the Indian delegation at the Paris meeting.

Conclusions of the RT will be submitted to the EU-India Summit taking place on 29 September, in Marseille. France holds the current EU Presidency.

For the 12th Round Table, the EESC has asked a French think tank, IDDRI (Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales), working in close cooperation with the leading Indian research Institute on climate change TERI to prepare a short study exploring the opportunities for an India-EU partnership on energy and climate security from the perspective of civil society.

The idea is to bring together the experience of civil society and the expertise of the academic world. In this perspective, rapporteur of the report on climate change, Lutz Ribbe, reaffirms that the challenge of climate change and energy can only be met with the support of civil society, and that a partnership on climate change and energy must not be limited to an intergovernmental dimension but must include a civil society dimension.

Trade and Investment rapporteur, Jan Simonis welcomes the launching of the negotiations of the Trade and Investment Agreement (FTA) between the EU and India, and urges the negotiators to fully involve their respective civil societies in monitoring progress.

EESC a is consultative body which enables its members, and hence the organisations they represent, to participate in the EU decision-making process.

The Committee has 344 members, who are appointed by the EU Council of Ministers. Its membership is made up of representatives of Europe's employers' organisations, trade unions, farmers, consumer groups, professional associations, and so on.



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