When the heads of state and government of the 27 countries of the European Union and the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean come together in July 2023, “it will be a success at diplomatic level and a great step forward in this strategic dialogue that we need” , commented DW Javi López, Co-President of the European-Latin American Assembly (Eurolat).
Roughly half a year before that summit, the European Parliament debated “Route 2023” this week, the path that should lead to a meeting that hasn’t taken place in eight years Added rotating Spanish EU Council Presidency.
Javi López, Co-President of the Euro-Latin American Assembly, Debate on the EU strategy for Latin America in 2023, Strasbourg, 18/01/2023.
“We know that these summits are no longer happening due to the presence of Venezuela, and at the same time we know that summits of a similar nature, like the Summit of the Americas, have failed because they were focused on participation,” says López, MEP for Spain the socialist bloc. At the end of the day, the question raised in the debate is whether democratic regimes should and want to sit at a table with representatives of “bloody regimes” and “beauty dictatorships”. In the plenary hall, the focus is on Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba. Related: “Why isn’t this problem at the EU-Africa summits, where there are dictatorships violating human rights?” asks Javi López.
On the other hand “in El Salvador there are almost 60,000 people who, because they belong to organized crime, are in prison and receive less calorie ration than the other prisoners. In Costa Rica there are hundreds of thousands of migrants from Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras; these Countries are not just a corridor for organized crime and drug trafficking,” Tilly Metz, president of the delegation for relations with Central America in the European Parliament, told DW.
Metz, a Luxembourg environmentalist MEP, speaks of the erosion and narrowing of democratic space by the governments of the region. But “where bridges can be built, they must be built,” he emphasizes.
One summit, many raw materials?
If the problem of attending the summit is resolved, the conclusion of the pending association agreements in the region will be one of the priorities of “Route 2023”. With the recent completion of the modernization of the agreement with Chile, attention and interest will be drawn and the pressure is aimed at it to complete the modernization of the agreement with Mexico and move forward with the Mercosur agreement.
At a time of war and energy crisis stemming from Russia’s war against Ukraine, Europe needs reliable partners: this is the mantra of renewed interest in Latin America. History and shared values are at the heart of efforts to geopolitically align with the New Continent. Without forgetting its natural resources.
Critics of this new European agenda with Latin America equate it with the quest for silver and gold in times of conquest. Now it’s about lithium, oil, hydrogen and soybeans.
“I can understand that concern. The deals with Latin America should not be designed to specialize their economies in selling commodities; they should meet our needs for raw materials and, through technology transfer, develop the productive industries of Latin America,” he stresses Javi López, who welcomes the chapters on sustainable development, gender equality and climate change in the new agreement with Chile.
And the shared responsibility in the drug trade?
However, Metz, who welcomes the search for intensified relations with Latin America, misses something: “It bothers me that trade and investment are the priority. There is talk of promoting democracy, human rights, humanitarian aid and even the fight against organized crime. I miss the self-reflection of the joint responsibility of the EU. Tomato and avocado exporters are part of the drug trafficking chain that is undermining democracies,” Metz said.
Tilly Metz, President of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Central America, debates the EU 2023 strategy with Latin America, Strasbourg, 18/01/2023.
Could these issues be addressed at the EU-CELAC Summit? “It’s reasonable to discuss it, the fight against drugs hasn’t worked and organized crime is gnawing at the structures of the state,” answers Javi López and concludes: “The agenda is decided by both of them. The EU-CELAC Summit should be the vessel we use to talk about what affects both regions.”