Latin America-European Union: when continuity is key to the agenda
Despite historic, close relations between Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union, different realities on both sides of the Atlantic have led to a change in pace and speed of bi-regional dialogue. This has affected, often negatively, the progress made on critical agreements. The current context, despite economic complexities, offers a new opportunity to consolidate a process of, hopefully, long-lasting continuity.
Recently, Félix Fernández-Shaw, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the European Commission’s General Directorate of International Partnerships, described the two regions as “the most compatible on the planet,” both on account of their cultural proximity and similarities in the challenges they face.
Compatibility between the two regions is unquestioned and highly valued on both sides of the Atlantic. However, for relationships to work, more than a “good match” is needed. The greatest challenge for both regions is to view one another as central to their agendas, beyond an internal political context. Latin America and the European Union must maintain a privileged structural dialogue rather than a circumstantial dialogue. Given the quickly changing, and often oscillating, landscape in Latin America means this is no simple feat.
The Summit held this year by the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), after an eight-year hiatus (not counting the virtual meeting held in 2021), will hopefully represent a new opportunity to relaunch this dialogue based on long-term initiatives and movement.
The free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur is one action that is central to relaunching relations. Other agreements are also important, such as those that the EU has in place with Chile and Mexico
There is no doubt that the free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur is one action that is central to relaunching relations. Other agreements are also important, such as those that the EU has in place with Chile and Mexico. It is evident that without continuity and cooperation, it will be very difficult to reach an agreement that will continue to function for more than 20 years, as is the case of the agreement between the EU and Mercosur.
Long-term harmony will be critical when it comes to overcoming shared environmental challenges. An important step was taken at the last Ibero-American Summit in Santo Domingo, approved of the Ibero-American Environmental Charter.
This roadmap could serve as a framework in the future for Latin America and the Caribbean-EU relations, as well as a commitment that translates to environmental actions and regulation. The thirtieth UN Climate Change Conference (COP 30) is on the horizon, being held in Belém do Pará (Brazil) in 2025. This conference will hopefully serve as a framework for both regions, allowing them to take stock of the progress made by their joint efforts on important topics like energy transition initiatives and food security.
Digitalization in Latin America and the Caribbean is another bioregional challenge, with the EU an essential ally in this transformation. The European Union-Latin America and the Caribbean Digital Alliance, launched last March in Bogotá, endorses the joint commitment to consolidating a people-based information society. This commitment involves public/private cooperation on both sides of the Atlantic and opens up a significant number of opportunities in infrastructure, access and closing the digital divide in Latin America and the Caribbean.
These common efforts undoubtedly pose challenges around disinformation, digital content, the regulation (or non-regulation) of networks and a pandora’s box of social issues. The issues in question are an essential part of bi-regional dialogue
Common efforts regarding digitalization undoubtedly pose challenges around disinformation, digital content, the regulation (or non-regulation) of networks and a pandora’s box of social issues. The issues in question are an essential part of bi-regional dialogue, which include migration, diversity and, ultimately, the overall protection and promotion of human rights.
These issues, along with many others, emphasize the need for a continued privileged cooperation. Cooperation must be based on fluid communication and mutual understanding.
We cannot allow ourselves to waver on or take a start/stop approach to these priorities. We must ensure that we continuously move with the tide of Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union. We cannot and must not give up on this.