EP Plenary: Towards a stronger EU-Latin America partnership


Speech delivered by Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, on behalf of High-Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell 

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 Thank you, Madame President. 

 Dear Members of the European Parliament,  

 Thank you for this debate, where I am taking the floor again in replacement of the High Representative/Vice-President [Josep] Borrell, who could not be present this evening.  

 2023 will be an important year for the European Union’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. The region is too often approached through the prism of crises and upheavals. We are following closely developments in Brazil, Haiti, Peru, Bolivia or Venezuela, among others. However, at this geopolitical juncture we should have a broader strategic perspective for the region. This is the focus of this debate. 

 The pandemic, geopolitical tensions, the war against Ukraine and changes in the region reinforce the need for a qualitative leap in our relationship.  

 On both sides of the Atlantic, we want to strengthen our autonomy. In economic terms, for instance, we all want to avoid excessive dependencies and diversify value chains.  

 But autonomy does not mean isolation. We need cooperation and agreements with reliable economic and political partners to face the three challenges of the 21st century: climate change, the technological revolution and social cohesion.  

 My main message today is that in this turbulent and unpredictable times, Latin America and the European Union need each other more than ever. We start from solid foundations.  

 Latin America and the Caribbean is the region of the world with whom we have one of the densest networks of agreements - 27 out of 33 countries. The European Union is the third largest destination for the exports coming from the region, and the first investor in the region. The European Union, together with its Member States, is also the largest contributor of development aid. 

 Let me also recall the nearly unanimous condemnation by the states of the region of Russia's aggression against Ukraine in the United Nations General Assembly. The Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union countries together represent more than a third of the United Nations. 

 We share values, culture, languages, deep political, economic and family ties. And we must look to our future, together.  

 That is why the European Union has proposed a new "Roadmap 2023". It is based on four lines of action in which you, as parliamentarians, also have an important role to play.  

 First, stepping up the political dialogue. Last October the first bi-regional ministerial meeting since 2018 took place in Buenos Aires, co-chaired by [High Representative/Vice-President] Josep Borrell. We agreed on a joint roadmap until the end of 2023, including the organisation of a bi-regional Summit, the first since 2015. Your Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat) is highlighted in the roadmap as a key element of the democratic debate. 

 Second line of action: advancing with the European Union agreements with the region. After the recent conclusion of negotiations for the modernisation of the agreement with Chile, we must try to finalise the one with Mexico, ensure the full ratification of the agreement with Central America, complete the Agreement with Mercosur, and move towards the signing of the post-Cotonou Agreement with the Caribbean.  

 Third, we need to strengthen our alliance on shared political priorities around major global challenges that we need to tackle together: the green and digital transitions, of course, but also social cohesion. The twin green and digital transition will either be democratic and fair, or they will not be.  

 We must not leave anyone behind. Economic growth is not enough.  

 The European Union’s Global Gateway will accompany this new agenda, supporting sustainable investments that reinforce our connections and help to strengthen our resilience. Co-investment is offered in digital, green, health, transport, education and research areas – always on the basis of core values and advanced social and environmental standards. This distinguishes the European model from others. 

 Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights.  

 Democracy is in decline around the world. If we want to defeat the autocratic threat and improve our democracies as spaces of freedom and justice, we must cooperate and join forces with other democracies.  

 We cannot forget that Latin American societies are suffering in the face of poverty, inequality and violence.  It is estimated that one in three Latin Americans are living in poverty and one in six in extreme poverty. Defending democracy also means enhancing our work together in favour of inclusive, just and sustainable development.  

 In short, this region is much more than an economic partner and a market of growing importance. It is a region where crucial European Union interests are at stake for the coming decades.  

 I thank the European Parliament for its support to this vision and the need to reinforce our ties with Latin America and the Caribbean at all levels. 

 Thank you. 

 Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-235870 

  Closing remarks 

 Thank you, Madame President. 

 Honourable Members,  

 I would like to thank all Members of Parliament who intervened and for the support you expressed for enhancing our regional co-partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean region. We take home the invitation to bring even more results, to continue the dialogue, to engage strategically and mobilise resources for the benefit of citizens on both sides of this “other” Transatlantic relationship. 

 One thing is clear: the green and digital transitions will be just and sustainable only if enough countries around the globe join us in this endeavour. Latin America and the Caribbean region is a natural partner to make this happen. 

There is a common understanding that we need to advance on the conclusion and ratification of pending agreements. These will open up new areas of cooperation and opportunities for both regions. In the particular case of Mercosur, as mentioned today, the change of dynamics brought by the new Brazil administration brings a window of opportunity that cannot be lost.  

 We need to intensify our bi-regional political dialogue at all levels and the work the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat) remains key along the way. It is remarkable that the Euro-Latin American Assembly has never ceased its work since its creation 16 years ago, helping to build bridges, even in the absence of Summits.  

 Indeed, we have a lot of work ahead of us to put relations between our regions in the place they deserve. Let me thank this Parliament for its continued support to achieve this objective. We have a lot of things to do in 2023, starting from tomorrow.   

 Thank you. 

 Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-235872 

Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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Daniel Puglisi
Press Officer for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management/Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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