The leaders of the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) held their first summit in eight years. The reunion was not exempt from tensions in a Latin America where China is gaining ground in the economic field and the positions of some leaders in the region on current issues such as the war in Ukraine are ambiguous. The return of Brazil to Celac and a possible trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU marked the agenda.
The last meeting of this type between the 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations and the members of the European bloc was in 2015. Since then, the Covid-19 pandemic and Brazil’s withdrawal from CELAC by decision of former president Jair Bolsonaro have made the Geographical distances also influence political and economic distances.
Yet friendship promises and EU commitments to spend $51 billion on deals with the region over the next four years endure. Furthermore, the influence of Europe in Latin America has never gone away; especially when it comes to the economy.
Annual trade between the two blocs has risen 39% over the past decade to $414 billion. Similarly, EU investment in the region stood at $777 billion, an increase of 45% over the last decade. The European Union already has trade agreements with 27 of the 33 CELAC nations.
But tensions also abound in the economic and political field. Divisions range from CELAC members condemning Russia for the war in Ukraine to trade and deforestation.
Conjunctural and historical recriminations
CELAC has member nations such as Cuba and Venezuela, whose views on Russia contrast with nearly all EU nations and others that are neutral in the war and point to other global conflicts that receive less attention.
Precisely, the role of Cuba in the international system was part of the agenda and the demands of Latin America to the European Union. Most of the CELAC States declared themselves in favor of end the US economic, commercial and financial embargo on Cuba and pointed out that the country’s inclusion on a list of State sponsors of terrorism hinders international financial transactions to the Caribbean island.
Latin American and Caribbean leaders also brought centuries-old recriminations about colonialism and slavery across the Atlantic to EU headquarters in Brussels, adding current complaints that Europe still doesn’t understand how to treat former colonies as partners. the same in the 21st century.
“Most of Europe was, and continues to be, the overwhelmingly lopsided beneficiary in a relationship in which our Latin America and our Caribbean have been and are unequally yoked,” said St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who holds the presidency of CELAC.
Historic recognition of Europe and promises of cooperation
For their part, European leaders acknowledged time and again that the exploitation of the old had been fundamentally wrong, but insisted that today’s challenges can only be effectively addressed when the EU and Latin American countries do so together.
“You have to realize that in the past we didn’t pick up the phone when they had problems. So there is a very serious irritation between many countries,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.
“Having this thrown back in our faces now is also proof that we as Europe sometimes act a bit arrogantly,” Rutte added.
However, both blocks do not lose hope of strengthening relations. The summit will be considered a success simply if the participants meet more frequently and an eventual trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur is signed.
In this edition of El Debate we analyze with our guests whether Latin America and the Caribbean will manage to overcome geopolitical bidding and get closer again on political and economic issues.
– Esther Herrera, France 24 correspondent in Brussels, Belgium.
– Adriano Spedaletti, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Mendoza, Argentina.
– Juan Carlos Martinez Lazaro, professor of economic environment at IE University.
With Reuters and AP
Source: France 24