CONFERENCE - 2005
INDIA AND NRIs/PIOs ROLE, RELATIONSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY
Mumbai, 5-6 January 2005
REPORT ON EUROPE PRESENTED BY
PRESIDENT, GOPIO BELGIUM
Good afternoon. I have the honour to present the Area Report on Europe.
1. The larger Europe covers 48 countries having a population of 800 million. The
European Union (EU) covers a large part of the continent Europe. Though
richly diverse, the 25 Member EU States are committed to the fundamental values
of peace, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
2. The European Union created a frontier-free single market and a
single currency the Euro in 2002. Together, the EU with its 25 Members States is
an indispensable partner for economic prosperity and peace. The EU at present has
some 455 million people with a combined GDP of 10 trillion Euros.
3. These fundamentals offer the Indian Diaspora a unique opportunity
to play an active role in the political and economic integration of Europe.
It also offers GOPIO an opportunity to broaden and enhance its presence and
become the voice of the Indian Diaspora. To be precise, my report explores the possibility
of institutionalizing the Indian heritage in the European economic and
political space and discusses the dynamics of socio-political situation of
Indian Diaspora in the context of role, relationship and responsibility.
4. The history of presence of the Indian Community in Europe
is decades old. The land of Europe is the home to more than 3 million Indian Diaspora and
through this presentation, I also pay my tribute to Europe
for affording the Indian community opportunities and access to integrate and
succeed in business, trade, commerce, academic and other fields.
way Indian Diaspora dominates the socio- economic scene in countries in Europe having larger Indian
Diaspora, it makes one feel that they are the core section of the European society.
Their integrity and resourcefulness has made a lot of Europeans jealous too.
Europe as a whole, it is surprising how well the Indian Diaspora from the
different parts of the world share similar values despite diverse culture and
tradition. May be this kinship is due to the hidden prejudice they all face in Europe.
7. In addition to the UK and the Netherlands, there are people of Indian origin in almost all countries of
Europe but their numbers are rather small. In Portugal for example, there are people of Indian origin from Goa.
In Spain - the majority Sindhi speakers, entered from Morocco's Casablanca and Western/Eastern Africa and the major group lives in Canary Islands - part of Spain in Atlantic.
8. The United Kingdom has the biggest Indian community followed by The
Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Nordic countries and so on. In the 70s a large group
of Indian community from East
Africa especially from Uganda migrated to England. Nearly one million people of
Indian origin live in the UK, 37 per cent
of them having been born there and this generation of
Indian community is relatively more creative, innovative, illustrious and
industrious. This is reflected by their remarkable success and achievements. There
are about 10,000 Indians in Europe
who are awaiting their citizenship. They are called “illegal immigrants” and I
term them “undocumented workers”.
9. Although in the Eastern
Europe, Russia and ex Soviet
Union countries the
Indian population is very small, Indians are trying to set up business and
other entrepreneurial activities. The
harsh economic and geographic conditions are not very hospitable and although
Russians are friendly people, the Indians do not feel very safe there now.
There have been several cases of physical and mental torture of Indian students
in Russia by the far right nationalist; mostly young people. Germany too has witnessed some politically inspired hatred against
Indian IT professionals.
10. The Indian Diaspora has mastered the art of adapting themselves
even in the most difficult conditions anywhere. And how could the land of Europe remain un-affected by the
magnetic power of this community? This Community
has been able to transform their presence with their ever lasting imprint. The Indian Diaspora exercises considerable influence on
domestic consumption patterns and life-styles too in Europe.
11. Let me give you one small example. Today,
Indian cuisine and its culinary art are increasingly reaching European homes. The
Indian Samosa is replacing the popular French fries, Chicken Tandoori is
terrorizing the British Fish and Chips, Kulfi is fast overtaking chocolate musse
in popularity, Restaurants serving Idli and Dosa are being opened up, Kingfisher and Cobra beer are the most
desired favourite beer in any restaurant
in UK. Yoga is becoming
household disciplinary way of life. And further more, the Europeans are
increasingly adapting to the Indian flavoured vegetarianism. Switzerland, Scotland and Holland are becoming the most favourite destination of Indian film
producers. This I consider a small but a silent and peaceful transformation of Europe
into a little India. A brand India in Europe has taken off well with all its arsenals.
12. By sheer hard work and conviction, the Indian
Community in Europe has been able to adapt themselves in the multidimensional
society and has achieved extraordinary success. They have been contributing in
all spheres of Europe’s development and
their contribution in the economic development of Europe
is second to none.
13. The shining talented Indian Diamond community in Belgium makes the Indian Diaspora proud of their achievements. They
have made enormous contribution to India’s development and to the Belgian’s economy. The Rosy Blue,
whose 1.4 billion annual turnover exceeds that of TCS, Infosys or Wipro, is an extra-ordinary
success story of Indians. It is important to know that gems and jewellery are India’s second highest foreign exchange earners. Creating wealth
out small stones is not easy but our diamond community have proved that they
are the “masters of stones” with excellence.
14. But all that glitters is not gold. Things are not as rosy as they
look. Indian community is being targeted for their success and achievements. In
Poland, the fate of Harish Hitange, an Indian executive working in
Warsaw, is still uncertain. The kidnappers have been demanding a
ransom of two million euros. And just to show that they mean business, they
have chopped off three of Hitange’s fingers and left in bottles in parts
of Warsaw on three different days.
15. An employee of a local Indian textile firm, Hitange was abducted on
April 20 last year. The kidnapping has
shocked the 800-strong Indian community which comprises mostly businessmen and
traders and they are living in fear.
16. The image of India and the profile of the Indian Community in Europe need to
be raised. The Indian community in Europe is
still seen as refugees or job seekers. The
GOPIO Belgium has already embarked upon organizing activities to address this
issue seriously. GOPIO Conference on the 4th. October in Brussels which was attended by more than 200 NRI/PIO business and
community leaders from 24 countries and was addressed by prominent business and
political leaders specifically addressed this issue. It is a small step but in the
17. Indian Business travelers and tourists are facing difficulties in
getting Shenzhen visa. Almost all the European countries are overlooking the
procedures of granting visa to them and are tightening
visa norms by insisting on personal interview and up to three yeas of
financial data like tax returns, this includes data from those people also who
have traveled frequently on business in the past.
18. However, it looks there are some encouraging developments
in this direction. Many countries of Europe have
started emulating the US strategy to achieve growth by attracting skilled and
talented work force, particularly from India. Seeing the success that the US has achieved through its strategic immigration policies,
other countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Germany have emulated the US strategy. To be frank they have no choice.
19. Europe suffers from acute skill shortage. Workplace Net
users in Europe was expected to rise to 77 million by 2004 but there
are not enough skilled IT staff to let Europe's e-business expand. The ILO predicts that while jobs in European ICT industries
will increase by more than 8.1% annually in coming years, skills gap has already
cost Europe $106bn in lost gross domestic product since 1998 and will
continue to do so in the absence of skills.
I wish Europe leaders understand the gravity of the situation.
20. I take this opportunity to call upon Europe
and the European Union to show courage and resolve to dismantle the artificial
barriers and allow free movement of Indian professionals to Europe.
Indian Diaspora exhibits a great diversity not only in terms of geography and
communities, but also in socio-economic status, educational achievements,
political participation and power. It can become a major catalyst in enhancing and
strengthening EU-India relations and in changing the mind-set.
22. India's relations with Europe
have continued to be close and productive.
Although there has also been a marked upswing in the collaboration
between the Indian government and trade bodies of European countries, a lot
more requires to be done. European
investments in India represent 0.2 percent of the EU's total foreign
23. It would not be out of place to mention that issues connected with corporate
social responsibility and socially responsive investment are likely to dominate
the investment pattern and policies of European Investors in the coming years. In order to improve trade and commerce
relations between India and the European Union, it is therefore essential that this
emerging scenario be addressed in all seriousness by our Diaspora.
24. Two months ago, on the 8th. November in The Hague, the European Union signed a "strategic
partnership" agreement with India to further cement economic and political ties. The European
Union considers India as important and crucial to Asia's
peace and stability.
25. This historic agreement strengthens Europe’s
trade, investment and other economic ties with India. It also opens the door to increased cooperation in areas
such as arms control, the fight against terrorism, the promotion of stability
on the Asian Subcontinent and United Nations reforms.
26. EU has such partnership with only five countries: The United
States, Canada, China, Japan and Russia. The Indian Diaspora
has a stake in strengthening this Strategic Partnership agreement as this will
lead to very significant improvement in the trade and commerce relations
between Europe and India. Further, this
partnership, will offer the Indian business community in particular, opportunities
to enhance their business interest and corporate influence all over Europe
and beyond Europe.
of the EU-India relations will help trade networks and effectively link the Diaspora
globally. With this in mind, GOPIO Belgium in the coming months, plans to organize
a High Level Round Table on the theme of “Role of the Indian Diaspora in Strengthening
EU-India Strategic Partnership”. GOPIO has already initiated discussions with the
European Commission and the Indian Embassy in this regard. The EU and the
Government of India is taking keen interest in GOPIO’s Europe-India Chamber of
Commerce initiatives. You all have our standing invitation to attend this Round
Table. We will seek co-operation, support
and assistance from everyone and particularly from the Indian Diamond Community
in Antwerp to organize this event.
28. Today, we have with us two very important diamond leaders; Mr.
Dilip Mehta and Mr. Bharat Shah and several of our Indian diamantaires from Belgium. I call upon Dilip Bhai and Bharat Bhai to kindly lead us. They
have the resources and will and we have strategy and determination, they have the
dream and we have strength and commitment and together we can herald this change.
We have lot to contribute to improve trade, commerce and socio-economic
relations between India and Europe. GOPIO offers its
29. The contribution of Indian Diaspora in Europe needs
to be perceived in a broader framework of international interaction and as a
part of the ongoing process of globalization. This Diaspora has played an
important role in Europe’s development and therefore to view the Diaspora as those
who have betrayed the country for the sake of their personal gain would be ill
conceived and myopic.
30. Indians are peace loving Community and this is precisely the reason
that no member of the Indian community has been found to be associated with any
terrorist activity or with any such group any where in Europe directly or
indirectly following the 9/11 event.
31. The continuous fall in the value of US dollar is causing concern
for the growth of Europe’s economy. The US dollar has lost 21 percent of its value
against the Euro in the past year. For
every 10 percent drop in the dollar, European company earnings are reduced by 4
percent on average. The current 8 per
cent unemployment in the Euro zone is likely to further rise.
32. I would like to conclude my report with a small submission that GOPIO
can become the household name in the hearts and minds of the Indian Diaspora in
Europe provided we can reach them. Even after 15 years of our
existence, we have just seven or eight Country Chapters in Europe? This
is not a happy situation. Let us think seriously if we want to take GOPIO to a
new height. As an activist of GOPIO, I am concerned with our progress; I am
concerned with our prospects. Our global organization must strive to become the
global hub of global Indian network with global brand combined with global
aspirations, vision and excellence.
15 December 2004
Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Belgium
69, Boulevard Louis Mettewie
1080 Brussels (Belgium)
Tel. & fax: 0032 2 469 2677
GSM: 0472-207 338
Website: www.gopio-belgium.be E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org