Written by Elena Lazarou
The second EU–CELAC Summit (eighth EU-LAC Summit) will be held in Brussels on 10 and 11 June under the theme ‘Shaping our common future: working for prosperous, cohesive and sustainable societies for our citizens’. As the main mechanism of bi-regional cooperation between the EU and the region, it will seek to reinvigorate the commitment to multilateral cooperation, building on the agenda established in Santiago in 2013 and taking into account developments in both regions since then.
The EU has maintained bi-regional relations with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) since the 1970s, when regular contacts were established between the group of Latin American Ambassadors to the European Communities (GRULA) and representatives of the Commission and the Council. In 1990, the Rome Declaration formalised relations between the European Community and the Rio Group, a permanent political consultation and coordination structure consisting of 23 Latin American and Caribbean states created in 1986. In 1999 the First Summit between LAC and EU Heads of State or Government, with the participation of the President of the European Commission, was held in Rio de Janeiro. The Summit launched the EU-LAC Strategic Partnership and introduced biennial EU-LAC Summits. Between 1999 and 2012, EU-LAC Summits took place in Madrid (2002), Guadalajara (2004), Vienna (2006), Lima (2008) and Madrid (2010). In 2010 at the Unity Summit in Mexico, 33 LAC countries decided to merge the Rio Group and the CALC (Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean on Development and Cooperation) into one forum: the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). CELAC was officially created in 2011 with the Caracas Declaration. As the largest region-wide grouping of LAC states it became the EU’s main counterpart.
The first EU–CELAC Summit: Santiago, 2013
The first of the biennial EU-CELAC Summits of Heads of State or Government took place in Santiago, Chile, on 26-27 January 2013, on the theme ‘An Alliance for Sustainable Development to Promote Investments of Social and Environmental Quality’. It included stakeholder meetings of business, academia, and civil society representatives. Summit discussions covered topics such as trade and investment, legal security, sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. Leaders issued a Summit Declaration covering the international arena, progress in the bi-regional partnership and the promotion of investments. The Summit established the EU-CELAC Action Plan 2013-15. Discussions on trade relations were held in the margins: then EU Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht met with counterparts from the region to ensure progress in the imminent provisional application of free trade agreements with Colombia and Peru, and of the trade pillar of the Association Agreement with Central America. Mexico and the EU held a high-level meeting on the possibility of modernising the EU-Mexico Global Agreement. The EU and Mercosur (Common Market of the South) agreed to proceed to an exchange of offers on goods, services, establishment and government procurement in order to reinvigorate stalled negotiations for a bi-regional Association Agreement.
The second EU–CELAC Summit: preparation and agenda
In January 2015, EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini participated in the third CELAC Summit in San Jose, Costa Rica, and emphasised the need for stronger relations with the region. The EU’s ties with the region are regulated through a complex web of free trade agreements (FTA), association agreements (AA) and strategic partnerships (with Brazil and Mexico). Yet there is room for more cooperation, including in the global agenda. The second EU-CELAC Summit will therefore have two working sessions: one on ‘Re-invigorating the bi-regional partnership’ and one on ‘Facing together common global challenges’. A final discussion among leaders on 11 June will address international issues and developments. Two high-level meetings will take place on the afternoon of 10 June: one between the EU and CARIFORUM and one with the six Central American countries which make up SICA (Central American Integration System) and which are part of the EU-Central America Association Agreement. Stakeholder events include bi-regional meetings of trade unions, business, academia, organised civil society, civil society, mayors, youth. Their conclusions will be directly presented to the participating leaders. Some 61 Heads of State or Government are expected to attend compared to 35 in Santiago. The Summit will be chaired by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and co-chaired by Ecuador, which holds the rotating Presidency of CELAC.
The bi-regional partnership
The final EU-CELAC Action Plan 2013-15 emphasised the need for collaboration in science, research, innovation and technology; sustainable development; environment; climate change; biodiversity; energy; regional integration; social inclusion; migration; education; the world drug problem; gender; investment and entrepreneurship for sustainable development. Related ongoing EU-CELAC cooperation programmes include: on climate, EUROCLIMA; on drugs policy, the Cocaine Routes programmes and COPOLAD, a major cooperation project which aims at an enhanced EU-CELAC cooperation/coordination mechanism on drugs; EUROsociAL, an EU programme aimed at consolidating cooperation between LAC and the EU on policy dialogue related to social cohesion; ERANet-LAC, a network for bilateral dialogue and activities in research and innovation; and the EU-CELAC migration project. According to the European External Action Service, the Summit will seek stronger ties with the CELAC region in all these areas by aiming for strengthened political dialogue; completion and modernisation of economic ties; and new types of cooperation.
Regarding economic ties, the EU remains the biggest investor in the region and the second trade partner after the US, closely followed by China. EU trade with the region has doubled in the past decade. The EU holds preferential trade agreements with 26 of the 33 CELAC countries, which include the aforementioned agreements with Mexico, Colombia and Peru (with the accession of Ecuador in 2014), the FTA with Chile, the Economic Partnership with CARIFORUM and the Association Agreement with Central America. Although the EU and Mercosur had agreed in Santiago to proceed to an exchange of offers, this is still pending. One of the aims of this year’s Summit will be to push in that direction. According to the press, Mercosur countries are working urgently on a common offer. In addition, the Summit will aim to ensure progress in the modernization of the Mexico and Chile FTAs; the full implementation of the more recent FTA with Peru and Colombia, and the AA with Central America; and the entry into force of the agreement with Ecuador.
The EU has traditionally been the largest donor of development assistance to the region, providing €2.69 billion in 2007-13. Bilateral and regional projects totalling €369 million were committed for the region in 2013, such as the Latin American Investment Facility (LAIF) and the partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank. Successful economic growth in eight upper middle income countries in the region has led to the end of bilateral cooperation and the vision for new approaches to cooperation, including the possibility of triangular cooperation and public-private partnerships.
Facing common global challenges together
Together, the EU and CELAC form a group of 61 states and constitute one third of the UN General Assembly. The Summit will capitalise on this potential to push for more cooperation at multilateral level on issues of bilateral concern such as climate change (in the COP 21), the post-2015 development agenda and drugs (in UNGASS, the global drug policy summit in 2016). The CELAC countries’ position on complete nuclear disarmament may be brought up at this session. The EU has committed itself to supporting a nuclear weapon free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In the final ‘Leaders Retreat’ on international developments it is likely that the Summit will address the critical issues of the normalisation of ties between the US and Cuba, the Colombian Peace Process and the situation in Venezuela. At the January CELAC Summit, the 33 states expressed solidarity with Venezuela, welcomed President Obama’s announcement of 17 December regarding Cuba and expressed support for the peace process in Colombia.
Created in 2006, the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat) constitutes the parliamentary dimension of the bi-regional partnership. The eighth Ordinary Plenary Session of EuroLat took place in Brussels on 4 and 5 June in preparation for the EU–CELAC Summit. The EU and Latin American co-chairs of the Assembly have submitted their respective messages to the Summit. US-Cuba relations, Venezuela and the Colombian Peace Process were among the political issues debated.