Europe and Latin America: Union of principles and interests, or neither? A comumn by Ingo Plöger

By Ingo Plöger*


The European Union met with Latin America (CELAC) in Brussels on July 17-18 to deepen cooperation between the two democratic continents. There was great hope and expectation of a new look from Europe to Latin America, and of a unique recognition of the present European situation by Latin America.

In his last statement, President Boric of Chile took upon himself the responsibility for the indignation that his Latin American partners were not willing to speak the truth as it presents itself in the issue of Ukraine invaded by Russia. He concludes with a plea for universal freedom and the right to territorial integrity of countries. Coming from a young socialist, coming from a distant Patagonian land, and being of Croatian descent, he knew what he was talking about. Nicaragua, whose opposition is clear and declared itself against this position, disrupted the unanimity of the final declaration.

The statement was filled with good intentions and statements of cooperation in all aspects.Words like ‘civility and morality’ – to which everyone adheres but not everyone practices –, abound. A statement that was read and reread, included all topics of interest to its multiple partners, but with no concrete action plans.

Politically, the victor was President Macron of France, who managed to bring together representatives of the Venezuelan government and the opposition to open a dialogue on the possibility of restoring minimal democratic principles in Venezuela in the upcoming elections. In the presence of important South American presidents such as Lula, Fernandes, and Petro, Macron succeeded in addressing the purpose of non-coercion of candidates for the elections and, on the other hand, a promise to alleviate the economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela. Macron achieved what neither Fernandes nor Lula achieved in the Unasur meeting – uniting all interested in fair, transparent, and legitimate elections.

Europe indeed made efforts to demonstrate its role as a gracious host, providing ample space for collateral meetings aimed at improving the institutional relationship between the two continents. The meetings concerning Mercosur and European Union agreements also displayed evident interest. Europe showed an increased commitment to concluding this agreement and outlined its intentions to pursue similar agreements with other parties. Notably, Item 31 of the Joint Declaration highlights European priorities and urgencies, with a primary focus on decarbonized production chains and the supply of critical raw materials and technologies. The declaration commends the modernization of agreements with Mexico and Chile and briefly acknowledges the ongoing collaboration between Mercosur and the EU.

What stands out the most in these statements are the affirmations of non-compliance, suggesting that efforts should be made as if they were not coming from the signatories themselves. The declaration reiterates the urgent need for developed countries to mobilize $100 billion annually in financial support for climate adaptation in developing nations. This raises questions about what concrete steps Europe, as a developed region, is taking to address this crucial issue. Additionally, the declaration includes various other statements, such as the inadequacy of access to water and the necessity to eliminate harmful environmental subsidies, which highlight a lack of efficiency and objectivity in addressing these problems.

The final document mentions the fact of the impoverishment of the population due to its increasing indebtedness, that development should not only be measured by GDP, and that signors should strive for paths that do not force countries to choose between poverty alleviation and climate change. In this regard, it points to the Global Gateway Investment Agenda, which brings together a series of projects funded by the EU.

The 2023 CELAC-EU Summit Declaration lists well-known problems and of good intentions to address them. The meeting can also be evaluated by what is missing from the Summit Declaration.

One notable absence is the vision of global geopolitical developments and the new priority options for societies in a more polarized world. By being conventional in their analysis and approaches, they missed the opportunity to propose new paths for regional integration in the Americas, where Europe, with its recent history, could have had much to contribute institutionally. They also failed to mention that the Americas today offer more solutions than problems for the journey towards a global BioEconomy. It offers significant options an collaboration opportunities in the food chain, and in agro products that substitute fossil raw materials. The potential of renewable energies, that surpasses that of Europe, could potentially help decarbonize the European production chain, not limited to green hydrogen alone.

The Declaration does not address the repercussions of the unilateral measures of the Green Deal, which not only negatively affect efforts to reduce poverty and hunger but also prove insufficient to curb deforestation in the Americas. A collective effort to set regional norms might be better than a norm issued by one bloc claiming to be the only effective solution worldwide.

Furthermore, it does not mention that the European Green Deal has closed the doors to agro-industrial imports until 2050 and has replaced the term “food security” with “food sovereignty,” justifying the closing of their agro-industrial markets. By emphasizing food sovereignty, it suggests that alliances, which are key in crisis situations, no longer exist.

In conclusion, the principles emanated from the Summit are good, but they will not be followed through. The needs are acknowledged, but proper solutions and effective actions are lacking. Nevertheless, the interests are clear and unequivocal. In this context, how can cooperation between Europe and CELAC progress? An option would be to have Latin America align with the EU, knowing that there will be no sustainable, long-term advantages; or Latin America may seek United States and China to recognize their interests.

During this Summit, Macron was the protagonist on the European side, but there was a lack of a counterpart from the CELAC side, perhaps the young Gabriel Boric, who represented a new left, called for principles of freedom and democracy, highlighting the need for greater unity in Latin America. It is worth noting that Macron, who was very skillful, is also a key figure in the Green Deal, which benefits Europe but not necessarily others. Europe understands that it cannot achieve its climate objectives without Latin America, and the region is increasingly aware of its potential, yet lacking coordinated strength.

The times are not unfavorable as they are blowing in the right direction towards the power of sustainability in food production chains and agribusiness, renewable energies, and environmental reserves in biodiversity. All of this exists in Latin America; what is lacking are more courageous young leaders like Gabriel Boric, who are more liberal and entrepreneurial, aiming for the well-being of their populations without dogmas, promoting education, and economic sustainability in the social resurgence through democracy.

* Ingo Plöger ia a Brazilian businessman, President CEAL Brazilian Chapter

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