Brussels Belgium – European Union officials are preparing to meet in Brussels on Thursday, where they are expected to grant EU candidate status to Ukraine in a gesture of solidarity amid the conflict with Russia.
At the same time, the bloc has been carrying out a global lobbying campaign to boost support for Kyiv, with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Finnish President Sanna Marin and other European leaders traveling to southern Africa. Asia – namely India, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East.
New trade agreements were signed and more humanitarian and financial support was promised, in an attempt to help some of these nations alleviate their dependence on Russia.
But speaking at the GLOBSEC forum in Bratislava earlier this month, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, said Europe should grow up with the mindset that its problems are the world’s problems.
“The world cannot be as Eurocentric as it used to be in the past,” he said.
“If I took Europe collectively, which has been singularly silent about a lot of things that were happening, for example in Asia, you might ask why anyone in Asia would trust Europe with anything,” he added.
According to Vivek Mishra, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi, “Eurocentrism has been challenged in academia on several occasions, but perhaps for the first time by a leading Indian policymaker on European soil.”
He told Al Jazeera that Jaishankar’s comments were “consistent with the EU’s move to the Indo-Pacific from the transatlantic and underscore the idea that Asian problems are as important as anywhere else in the world.”
He added: “There cannot be a comparative advantage for Europe or the West over Asia or Asian affairs. There is a colonial tone there, which needed to be called out.”
India’s balancing act of appeasing Russia and the West caught the EU off guard, but in April in New Delhi, von der Leyen reiterated the dangers of war in Ukraine at a news conference.
“The result of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war will not only determine the future of Europe, it will also profoundly affect the Indo-Pacific region and the rest of the world. For the Indo-Pacific, it is as important as for Europe that borders are respected. And that spheres of influence are rejected. We want a positive vision for a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” she told reporters.
At the time, the EU had established a joint trade and technology council with India with the aim of strengthening economic and strategic ties with the country.
But India continued to maintain its neutral stance towards Russia.
The African Union also did not accept the EU’s lobbying efforts to isolate Russia.
Concerned about the global food crisis, in a recent meeting with EU leaders, Macky Sall, president of Senegal and president of the African Union (AU), said that the bloc’s sanctions on Russia threatened the import of grains and fertilizers to Africa.
In an interview with the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Sall said that the UA wants to pay (for importing grain and fertilisers), but now it is “becoming impossible”.
“That’s why we ask Europeans for the same mechanism as for gas and oil,” he said.
The AU leader also met with Putin in early June and they agreed that sanctions would not solve the food crisis.
“I understand the sentiment in these regions, because when countries in Africa and Asia had wars, Europe sometimes played a one-sided game,” Jacob F Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, told Al Jazeera.
“The EU certainly underestimated the fact that the sheer outrage felt on the continent over this war and enmity against Russia is not shared by the rest of the world,” he added.
But Harry Nedelcu, head of policy at Rasmussen Global and in charge of its Free Ukraine Task Force, told Al Jazeera that the onus also falls on Russia.
“India’s Foreign Minister’s response and also the African Union’s statements illustrate Russia’s narrative and its ability to turn reality upside down and make the victim look like they are the problem,” he said.
“Russia is basically saying that the food crisis is Ukraine’s fault. But in reality, the food is not coming out because Russia is invading Ukraine. Russia attacked Ukraine and prevented Ukrainian grain from reaching the rest of the world,” she added.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell acknowledged the African leader’s concerns. But he stressed that the problem should not be blamed on EU sanctions.
“I have sent a letter to all African foreign ministers explaining how our sanctions are being adapted – how they work, who they affect, what can be allowed under sanctions or not,” he said.
He also added that the EU has pledged US$1.06 billion to tackle food insecurity in the Sahel, US$633 million for urgent support to strengthen the resilience of food systems in the Horn of Africa and US$237 million to mitigate the effects of potential emerging food crises in North Africa and the Middle East.
“This is part of the action plan on the geopolitical consequences of Russian aggression,” Borrell said.
But, according to ORF’s Mishra, ultimately the West, including the EU, has perhaps been more successful in solidifying an intra-Western network than an inter-regional network with other areas of the world.
“With the war still going on, most countries outside the transatlantic have reverted to the classic notion of realism that is ‘self-help’. They have been selective about which issues they can afford the West and which issues they cannot,” he said.
“Whether it be Russian energy trade, bilateral currency channels with Moscow or travel and connectivity with Russia, countries have acted to serve their individual interests rather than upholding morality, human rights or even expectations,” he added.
But Nedelcu stressed that for now, the EU’s priority in lobbying globally must be facing the Russian narrative.
“The EU has to be more proactive in explaining who is the victim and who is the aggressor. This is the only way to face Russia’s ability to distort the reality of situations and divide the world,” he said.