Can India become an EU member?

Business Line, India, February 24, 2007

By Pradeep S Mehta

The European Union is a unique success story and thus many countries are queuing up to join it. Starting from six countries in 1951, it now has 27 members with many more set to join. One question raised to the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn in the columns of Financial Times recently shows how adventurous people can be. A reader from London asked Rehn if the EU might expand to include Morocco, Libya or Egypt? The answer was `no’. Rehn expanded his answer to speak about the qualification criteria to be based upon elements such as geographical, historical and cultural. None of these apply to the three north African countries.

In fact, because of these very reasons, Turkey, which is otherwise a member of the European Customs Union, is unable to achieve its objective of getting into the EU.

Then, can India become a member of the EU? Mr Romano Prodi, Italian Prime Minister and former President of the European Commission, in an interview to The Hindu, was quoted: “… India is not a potential but a real partner, politically, culturally and economically… ” A bilateral free trade agreement is envisaged with the EU, which will enhance political relations, but how can India be a partner culturally? Indeed, it can, being itself so integrated, despite the numerous languages, beliefs, faiths and cultures. Indeed, India could be a role model for Europe that is seeking a larger political union (including with Turkey). When, in 2004, Ms Sonia Gandhi was elected the Congress party head, a friend called me from Kuala Lumpur, and asked whether India was joining the EU. I did not catch his drift, but understood when she was the party’s first choice for prime minister.

The author is Secretary General, CUTS International, a leading research, advocacy and networking group and can be reached at

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