“Road 2023”: paving the way towards a European Union-Latin America stronger partnership

A friendship works if there is memory, trust and shared plans for the future. A friendship endures if it manages to overcome crises and setbacks.” HR/VP Josep Borrell travelled to Uruguay and Argentina from 24 to 31 October to bring a message to the Latin American & Caribbean partners: together we can make a difference in these challenging times.

Besides the bilateral agenda with both countries, the HR/VP co-chaired the 3rd Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the EU. More than four years after their last meeting, 60 countries reunited again under the theme "Renewing the bi-regional partnership to strengthen peace and sustainable development".

HR/VP Borrell spoke with the region´s leaders about his commitment to move forward with the signing of the EU-Mercosur agreement, as well as the modernization of the agreements with Mexico and Chile as crucial building blocks of the bi-regional partnership. “We have to unblock them. It will bring advantages for both regions”, Borrell stressed.

Ministers also discussed the post-pandemic recovery, the food and energy crisis, climate change, the undermining of our democratic systems and multilateral order, the defence of human rights. Hosted by Argentina as Presidency pro-tempore of CELAC, the foreign ministers agreed on a roadmap to upgrade the relationship between both regions. The “Road to 2023” paves the way towards an EU-LAC Summit at Heads of State & Government level in the second half of 2023, under the Spanish Presidency of the European Council.

The objective of this meeting is to renew our bi-regional association and put it at the service of peace in the world and sustainable development”, Borrell said.

In the current geopolitical and geo-economic context, the HR/VP called for a “smarter” cooperation to avoid dependencies and build together a strategic autonomy. He highlighted four main objectives for this partnership:

  • Intensify political dialogue.
  • Modernize and complete the network of trade and association agreements we already have and support regional integration of Latin America.
  • Cooperate on shared priorities: the green transition of our economies, digital transformation and social cohesion.
  • Promote peace, democracy and human rights.

In the margins of the EU-CELAC meeting, the HR/VP held bilateral meetings with the foreign affairs ministers of countries in the region such as Ecuador, Cuba and Chile.

In Buenos Aires, the HR/VP also addressed the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), where he stressed the interest of the EU -as the leading investor in the region- in further strengthening cooperation ties between ECLAC, Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union.

His mission in the region included an intense agenda to engage with two EU partners: Uruguay and Argentina.


Uruguay: supporter of regional integration and front-runner for green transition

Relations between the European Union and Uruguay, currently managed under the 1992 Framework Cooperation Agreement, are based on shared values such as the defence of human rights, the rule of law, a rules-based multilateral order and the fight against climate change, in which Uruguay is a regional and global leader. With Montevideo as the MERCOSUR headquarters (and currently holding its presidency until the end of 2022), Uruguay is a strong supporter of the EU-Mercosur negotiations.

Josep Borrell met with President Luis Lacalle Pou, Vice President Beatriz Argimon at the Uruguayan Congress, and Foreign Affairs Minister Francisco Bustillo. He also gave a speech at the IV EU-Uruguay Investment Forum, where he highlighted Uruguay’s democratic political stability and reliability, which has made the country an attractive place for EU investments and a solid partner for the EU.

The EU is Uruguay’s third biggest trade partner, after China and Brazil, and the biggest foreign investor in the country. In 2020, over 600 European companies hold 40% of Uruguay´s foreign direct investment stock and were present in several key sectors such as wood pulp industry, logistics, banking, telecommunications and tourism. In 2021, almost half of the EU imports from Uruguay were pulp of wood, paper and paperboard. The sector is dominated by European players (Finnish UPM and Swedish-Finnish-Chilean Montes del Plata).

HR/VP Borrell took advantage of his time in Uruguay to visit this major European-Uruguayan project in Montevideo harbour. In 2019 UPM announced an investment of over €3 billion in a second pulp mill and a new specialised port terminal. It is the largest private investment in Uruguay’s history. The State accompanied these two investments with the construction of a 300km railway line (linking the pulp mill and the port terminal).


UPM port terminal


Uruguay is a key partner of the EU and an important pioneer in the LAC region with regard to its climate and environmental ambition to achieve a green transition. The country is a world leader in the use of renewable energy sources. It has radically transformed its energy grid, making it one of the greenest in the world: today it generates 97% of electricity through renewable sources. This places Uruguay as a world leader along with Denmark, Ireland and Portugal, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It is also a net exporter for the region.

In terms of international cooperation, since 2020, the EU has committed €6 million for activities focusing on areas of climate change, security, SMEs, human rights, gender. The EU and Uruguay also cooperate under the umbrella of other regional programmes focusing on transnational crime (El Paccto), maritime illicit trade (SEACOP V), drugs policies (COPOLAD III) or gender-based violence (EIDHR).


Argentina: a partner for democracy and with high potential on renewable energy, green hydrogen and LNG

There is a strong partnership between the EU and Argentina, which is based on our common attachment to democracy, and our dedication towards multilateralism and human rights. The EU supports Argentina’s strong commitment to political dialogue, civic education and respect for diversity, as the country prepares to mark 40 years of democracy in 2023.

The HR/VP’s first activity in Buenos Aires was to visit the “Parque de la Memoria” where he paid tribute to the victims of the Argentine dictatorship (1976-1983).


Parque de la memoria


The High Representative also met with President Alberto Fernández, Vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Minister of Foreign Affairs Santiago Cafiero.

The political engagement has leveraged the opportunity to start the process towards the launch of negotiations on a new bilateral cooperation and political framework agreement, to modernise the existing one of 32 years ago. This will expand the framework of cooperation beyond the trade and investments commitments that are being covered by the EU-Mercosur agreement.

Our trade relations are strong, as the EU is Argentina’s third biggest trade partner, and the biggest foreign investor in the country. In 2017, European companies held almost 44% of the foreign investment stock in the country. The European Investment Bank currently lends EUR 655 million to Argentina.

The EU seeks to strengthen cooperation on energy and raw materials with Argentina, which forms with Bolivia and Chile the “lithium triangle”. To that aim, the HR/VP has announced the upcoming signature of a Memorandum of Understanding on energy between Argentina and the EU to cooperate on renewables and green hydrogen and promote the development of LNG for export to Europe.

The Digital and Green transition is a focal point of the strengthened partnership. The EU will work together with Argentina on regulations and policies which are crucial for the successful proceeding of the digital revolution. Digital and green issues are also the focus of the call for projects launched by Josep Borrell during his visit to Bariloche. The call will be used to finance Human Rights and Civil Society initiatives for a record amount for Argentina of EUR 6.2 million, with a focus on the Patagonia region. This is a region with a very dispersed population, low levels of connectivity and limited access to new technologies.

Argentina is also a significant technological and scientific player in the region. The EU and Argentina have a particular interest in collaborating in the field of space technology. In 2022, a technical mission concluded that EU systems such as Copernicus and Galileo could reinforce Argentina´s already high capacity in areas such as precision agriculture; applications of Industry 4.0; transport and energy; monitoring of forestry activity; and crisis management such as large fires that affect the country. These systems are already available and offer open data to researchers, companies and public services.

Europe and Argentina also have another important framework for space cooperation, the European Space Agency (ESA) in Argentina. The Deep Space 3 – Malargue telescope is the most modern antenna for tracking ESA’s deep space exploration missions. Argentine scientists have access to the station and can use it for their research.

HR/VP Borrell also visited INVAP (Investigación Aplicada Sociedad del Estado), an Argentine high-tech company, a benchmark for technological development mainly in the nuclear, space, defence and security, renewable energy and medical systems sectors. It has great potential for cooperation with the EU in broad areas, especially related to sustainable development, such as services for agriculture and forestry, or for the traceability of food production chains.


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