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Panel regrets non-response by EU to Modi's Brussels visit plan

Panel regrets non-response by EU to Modis Brussels visit plan
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A high-level European Parliament delegation on Monday expressed "regret" over non-response of the European Union to India's proposal for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Brussels next month due to the Italian marines issue and said it will ask the 28-member bloc to "rapidly try" to fix the dates for India-EU Summit.

Chair of the EU Delegation for relations with India Geoffrey Van Orden said a date for Modi's visit was under discussion and it took too long on the part of the EU to confirm it following which India called off the plan.

The delegation will ask the EU to "rapidly try" and identify a new date for a summit between India and EU, which had last taken place in 2012, and hoped that the Indian leadership will respond in a positive way, Orden said.

Admitting that Italian marines was an issue for EU, he, however, said importance of the relationship between the two sides was much larger than the matter and calling off of Modi's plan to visit Brussels was disappointing.

"This (Marines issue) should not be a matter which affects relationship between the EU and India. This (the relationship) is something far larger and wider platform to unite. That is why we have expressed disappointment that the summit has been postponed," he told reporters here.

Orden said a date was under discussion and "it took too long" on the part of the EU to confirm the date which made India firm up Modi's itinerary leaving out a short visit to Brussels.

"I think it is very regrettable. We as Parliamentarian want to see positive engagement," he said criticising EU for the delay in finalising the date.

Upset with the slow progress of the trial of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fisherman in 2012, new EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had made many critical remarks on the issue much to India's discomfort.

The delegation also hoped for an early resumption of the negotiations for an economic pact, talks for which were launched in 2007.

Orden said the India-EU Summit would have taken place if Modi could visit Brussels in April during his planned trip to France and Germany and Canada.

Calling EU's relationship with India "complex", Orden said the grouping wants to engage with the emerging economic power mentioning that it was excited by Modi government's initiatives in various fields.

He also underlined the need to fast track negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement, saying it will put enormous value to the relationship.

Member of the delegation Neena Gill said the issue of EU's delay in responding to India's request for a visit by Modi will be taken up in the Parliament and hoped that the EU-India Summit would take place later this year. The Summit was last held in 2012.

"We take a very dim view that a bilateral issue has escalated this way," she said.

"It is regrettable that there was this delay... We were trying for resurrection of the Summit. We are committed to take this issue up," Gill said while adding that a new dispensation took charge at the EU recently which may have resulted in the delay.

On the Italian Marines issue, Orden said imprisonment of citizens from EU member countries was a matter of importance and hoped that the legal process will be expedited.

"We have respect for the Indian legal process. On this particular circumstances, we would like to think that the processes have perhaps gone little bit too long," he said.

Earlier in the day, the delegation met Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and discussed various issues of mutual importance.

Orden said in the meeting Naidu conveyed to the delegation that European companies should expand their participation in various projects in India. "He made a very strong and positive invitation for engagement."

Gill said marines issue figured in the meeting. Orden said he will invite Speaker of Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan to visit European Parliament soon during a meeting with her tomorrow.

Another delegation member A Peterle said all the obstacles that prevented Modi's visit to Brussels must be removed.

Asked whether the delegation would meet Modi, Orden said the Prime Minister had very busy international engagement due to which it could not meet him.
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