A friendship relationship works if there is memory, trust and shared plans for the future. A friendship lasts if it manages to overcome crises and setbacks. We often say that the The European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean share values, history, culture, languages and deep political, economic and family ties. It is true, but we cannot live in the past.
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The relationship is positive and, perhaps for this reason, we have rested on our laurels. It’s time to wake up. We recognize that Latin America and the Caribbean have not received the strategic attention they deserve.
In this moment of geopolitical inflection in which the old has not just died and the new has not just been born, we must all recalibrate our strategic compass, identifying dangers and threats, but also partners and opportunities.
And although instinct tells us to withdraw, we must avoid it because in today’s hyperconnected world there are no oases to hide. The shock waves of the pandemic, economic crisis and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine reach us all.
Our relationship is based on solid foundations. The European Union is the third destination for Latin American exports, and the first source of investment: European companies have invested in Latin America and the Caribbean more than in China, Japan, Russia and India combined. We have one of the densest networks of political and commercial agreements, covering 27 of the 33 countries. The European Union is also the largest contributor of development aid to the region.
The relationship is positive and, perhaps for this reason, we have rested on our laurels. It’s time to wake up. We recognize that Latin America and the Caribbean have not received the strategic attention they deserve on our part and we propose a deepening of our relations in terms of intensity and volume –that is, quantitative– but also in qualitative terms, with new agreements and alliances, adapting approach to new challenges.
Of course, it is something that requires the collaboration not only of governments and institutions, but also of civil society, businessmen, students, universities, scientists and creators.
The more than 230 million young people on both sides of the Atlantic they have a lot to say. That’s why it’s so important the first bi-regional meeting since 2018 between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union, which I will preside over today together with our Argentine host. We have to talk more. reflect together. listen to us
Identify and accept differences, but above all build a positive agenda to relaunch our association. In Buenos Aires we have a very broad agenda, but I want to highlight three fundamental reasons to cooperate more and better.
First, promote peace through a fairer and more inclusive rules-based multilateral order. We have condemned together, by a great majority, the unjustified and illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine and its terrible human cost. Together we have demanded respect for the principles of international law that Latin America helped create, such as respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of States.
We want to strengthen our autonomy(s), avoiding forced dependencies and increasing our economic resilience.
At a time when territories of another State are being invaded and annexed, and the use of nuclear weapons is openly threatened, the voice of Latin America and the Caribbean as a region that defends a pluralist –and anti-imperialist– vision of the international community, and that since 1969, thanks to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, outlaws nuclear weapons, it must be heard. Of course, peace and democracy go hand in hand.
If we want to defeat the autocratic threat and improve our democracies as a space of freedom and justice, we can only do it together.
Second, we need a common agenda to tackle the three great challenges of the 21st century: climate change, the digital revolution and social cohesion. The world to come will be more divided, fragmented and multipolar, with a step backwards in economic globalization.
It is urgent to work together in this new geopolitical scenario to face the global problems of food, energy and debt, exacerbated by the war. We can and must do so because we have competing interests. In response to the pandemic and the consequences of the war, on both sides of the Atlantic we want to strengthen our autonomy(ies), avoiding forced dependencies and increasing our economic resilience.
But autonomy does not mean isolation. Autonomy requires cooperation and reliable partners to reach agreements, share experiences and technology, regulate new markets, innovate and investigate, connect secure infrastructures such as the great transatlantic digital cable Bella or the Copernicus satellite network, and diversify more resilient and committed global value chains. with advanced social and environmental standards.
Latin America and the Caribbean is a world power in biodiversity, renewable energies, agricultural production and strategic raw materials that wants to take advantage of the new transitions to industrialize key sectors and add value to its productive capacity. It wants to grow, but with greater equality and sustainability. Europe has technological and investment capacity and also needs alliances with reliable partners to diversify its supply chains.
The challenge is, therefore, to modernize and strengthen ties, not dependencies, placing people at the center of this triple ecological and digital transition, but also social. If we do not reduce inequalities, our citizens will turn their backs on change.
After all, our democracies here and there, as a fellow Latin American minister recently reminded me, make Cicero’s dictum their own: Salus populi suprema lex. The health and well-being of the people is the supreme law.
Third, in a world of giants, size matters. Together we represent a third of the United Nations. The European Union has grown through crisis, and Putin’s war has reminded us that scale and therefore unity are essential for survival. I also appreciate that more and more Latin American and Caribbean leaders are calling for a stronger and more united regional voice.
Latin American integration is a great promise to fulfill that it is not up to us Europeans to resolve, but to support. In building the multilateral order of the future, our regional organizations must play a key role. We return to the road in Buenos Aires to revitalize our friendship and we do it with memory, trust and future plans.
Josep Borrell FontellesHigh Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission.
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