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CELAC Summit
Opinion
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Europe’s last train to Latin America and the Caribbean 

The Spanish presidency of the European Union offers an opportunity to write the history of the coming decade

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy during the opening of the 2022 CELAC - UE Meeting in Buenos Aires with President Alberto Fernández of Argentina and Minister for Foreign Affairs Santiago Cafiero.
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy during the opening of the 2022 CELAC - UE Meeting in Buenos Aires with President Alberto Fernández of Argentina and Minister for Foreign Affairs Santiago Cafiero.Erika Villano (ERIKA VILLANO)

Under the Spanish presidency of the EU, we have the opportunity, over the next six months, to write the history of the next decade. Within this timeframe we must decide on the relationship between Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean: to act? Or not to act? In other words, will we pursue an ambitious roadmap that goes beyond declarations of intent; or will we maintain a conventional relationship that, while useful, has not developed its full potential?

The good news is that we are on the side of doing that. Spain is strongly promoting the relaunching of relations between the two regions. This situation offers optimism, but there are basic tenets that need to be addressed. Firstly, it is necessary to move away from the Latin American synecdoche: stop treating one part as though it were the whole. In other words, Europe must understand that Latin America and the Caribbean is a diverse whole and not a collective of bilateral alliances with a few countries.

Latin America is the Amazon, but it is also the Darién, the Caribbean reefs, the aquifers of the pampas, the Andean paramos or the glaciers of Patagonia. For this reason, the EU’s approaches to the region must be different, personalized, and adapted to each of the countries and subregions whether the Southern Cone, the Andean axis, the Caribbean or Mesoamerica. Nature has neither political, nor administrative boundaries.

Secondly, it is necessary to foster and highlight the common historical and cultural values, the shared vision of the world, to get all the EU countries involved. Beyond trade, Latin America and the Caribbean is a region of peace and refuge. For much of the 20th century, for example, it welcomed citizens from all European countries in times of crisis, wars, and between wars, and millions of exiles turned their descendants into Latin American and Caribbean citizens.

At this juncture, actors such as CAF - Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean, are promoting new alliances to expand investment and trade, jointly address major global challenges such as climate change and digital transformation and give Latin American and Caribbean solutions a place in international decision-making forums.

The European Union is the block that provides the most official development assistance, and Latin America and the Caribbean is a region of solutions, for example in environmental issues, biodiversity protection or food security, so we need to enhance and secure these synergies.

We have a well-structured roadmap. The first stop will be on July 17 at the Heads of State Business Summit in Brussels. This event organized by CAF, IDB and the European Commission, will bring together political leaders, corporate CEOs, heads of development finance institutions and industry associations to review key aspects of the Global Gateway Investment Agenda.

The second stop will be the inaugural meeting of EU and Latin American and Caribbean finance ministers on September 15 in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. This event will bring together 33 Latin American and Caribbean ministers and 27 EU ministers to accelerate an investment agenda intended to leverage resources to support the 2030 Agenda. This historic meeting, organized by CAF and the Government of Spain, will stimulate new investments to fast-track the green transition, digital transformation and human development.

The EU-Latin America and Caribbean partnership should help us to overcome some of the socio-economic gaps in the region. For example, there are currently 200 million Latin Americans living in poverty, women occupy only 15% of managerial positions and the poorest 50% accumulate only 1% of the wealth.

This is the last train from Europe to Latin America and the Caribbean. A train full of possibilities, hope, and promise of progress for the two regions, which Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean should not miss.

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