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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

From natural partners to partners of choice

There is genuine political will to reinforce cooperation between Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean

Cumbres internacionales
Josep Borrell at the 2022 CELAC - UE Meeting with President Alberto Fernández of Argentina and Minister for Foreign Affairs Santiago Cafiero.Erika Villano (ERIKA VILLANO)

For the first time in eight years, leaders of the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean are gathering in Brussels. We meet during a period of profound global change, with overlapping trends and crises transforming the geopolitical landscape.

Global temperatures are set to break records in the next five years and extreme weather events are already causing pain on both sides of the Atlantic. Digital innovation brings unprecedented opportunities and unanticipated risks. Covid-19 exposed global inequalities and reversed the progress made towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine hampers global economic recovery and threatens geopolitical stability.

Democratic values are being challenged increasingly. But in this “perfect storm” of crises, the EU must not turn its back on partners and rather strengthen its partnerships.

EU-LAC Summit is a pivotal moment

Latin America and the Caribbean and the EU share a long history of partnership rooted in shared values, vibrant people-to-people relations, and strong trade ties. Together, we account for nearly one third of UN members.

Now the partnership needs to be updated to reflect today’s challenges. The EU-LAC Summit is a moment to forge a stronger political alliance, strengthen our trade agenda and tackle global challenges together.

We should aspire to promote a fair, green, and digital transition through sustainable investments, and reduce inequalities. We should put joint effort in advancing peace, security, justice, and human rights together, and defend rules-based multilateralism.

Partnership between peoples

First and foremost, this partnership across the Atlantic must benefit the people. Long-term partnership will always be anchored with people.

Last week, we organised the EU-LAC Forum in Brussels. During this Forum, young people, civil society, and local authorities shared valuable insights about the needs and priorities of the communities they represent.

The EU-LAC Forum produced recommendations, which will feed straight into the leaders’ meeting – and leaders ought to listen!

Equality and social cohesion are the only truly stable foundations for prosperity. Actions seeking to foster cohesion and tackle inequalities must be at the heart of our partnership.

At the EU-LAC Forum, I was proud to launch a new EU programme of €60 million on Inclusive and Equal Societies. Through this programme, we will invest in developing innovative social policies.

Precisely this aspect, the inclusion of the social dimension of sustainable development, makes the EU’s partnership offer unique. Our offer, Global Gateway, is an investment strategy, which will mobilise sustainable investments in infrastructure, while accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Global Gateway has a 360-degree approach: we look at the whole ecosystem around flagship projects and invest in enabling environment as well. This includes basic services, like education and health, skills and research, regulatory frameworks and well-functioning institutions, and tackling inequalities.

Global Gateway Investment Agenda

A key deliverable of the Summit will be the EU-LAC Global Gateway Investment Agenda. We know the most pressing policy priorities of our time: promoting ambitious fair, green, and digital transitions. The investment agenda aims to deliver on these priorities through a variety of transformative projects, which will adhere to highest social, labour and environmental standards, and help to put the Sustainable Development Goals on track.

We will strengthen our joint efforts to fight climate change and biodiversity loss through collaboration on several Team Europe Initiatives, like “the Green Transition”, “the Amazon Basin”, and “the Five Great Forests of Mesoamerica”.

Fair critical raw materials partnerships are our tools to improve supply chains, diversify sourcing, and boost the green transition in both regions.

On the digital , initiatives such as the EU-LAC Digital Alliance, which we launched in March this year in Bogotá, will champion human-centric digitalisation, connectivity for all and networks, which enhance our standing in the global economy.

The EU will support these efforts with over EUR 10 billion and this will be complemented by Member States and the private sector.

Private sector is a key player

Public sector investment alone will never be enough to drive the progress the citizens deserve. Aid alone will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and no partner country wants to depend on aid.

Therefore, we must bring businesses and investors fully on board. As part of the Summit, we have a Business Roundtable. It will connect private sector representatives and decisionmakers from both sides of the Atlantic.

The overarching objective of Global Gateway is to leverage private investments. Publicly funded projects by the EU, Member States and development finance institutions are designed to facilitate and attract private money. In our toolkit, we have innovative solutions like guarantees and blending, and we engage in political dialogue to improve the business environment.

Recent crises have brought forward the concept of strategic autonomy. It does not mean fortress Europe nor new barriers for trade. On the contrary, it needs to be boosted in an open manner, together with trusted partners and with mutual benefits in mind.

Future is here already – with the youth

The Summit between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean is an important moment, but it is not the start nor the end.

In many fronts, the ball is already moving. We have already cooperated on the extension of the BELLA cable, the LAC Cyber Security Centre in Santo Domingo, and the creation of two regional Copernicus centres for disaster risk reduction, climate change, land, and marine monitoring. We are working on improving equitable access to safe, effective, and affordable health technologies, medicines, and vaccines.

Let’s build on these, and let’s not only dream the future. Future is already here: we should remember that the largest generation of youth in history is amongst us. We need their opinions, priorities and ambitions. We should boost the EU-Latin America and the Caribbean Partnership with them and for them.

There is now a real political momentum to strengthen the partnership between our regions. We have been natural partners for decades. Now we work to become partners of choice.

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