The EU and Latin America and the Caribbean have enjoyed privileged relations since the first bi-regional Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1999, which established a strategic partnership. They are natural partners linked by strong historical, cultural and economic ties. Together, EU and LAC countries account for more than a third of the UN membership and are a force for a strong and rules-based multilateral order. They are allies on many of the global challenges of our times, including sustainable development, climate change and protection of biodiversity, human rights and fair and free trade. LAC is also the region with the closest formal ties to the EU which has association, trade or political & cooperation agreements with 27 of the 33 countries. The EU is the leading investor in the region and its third external trade partner. It is represented in all 33 countries and physically present in 26 of them through its Delegations and Member States’ Embassies. A Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean: joining forces for a common future (April 2019) sets out the current policy framework for relation between the two regions.
On This Page
- A strategic geopolitical partnership for the challenges of the 21st century
- Finding new ways to cooperate: joining forces for a sustainable recovery
- Tapping the full potential of trade and investment links for stability and prosperity
- Common values, identities, languages, and history: a genuine cultural and societal partnership
- Our common work on humanitarian, migration and peace and security issues
- The COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to build back better
A strategic geopolitical partnership for the challenges of the 21st century
In today’s fast evolving and contested world, the EU’s partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is of geostrategic relevance. With deep historic and cultural ties, and grounded in a shared commitment to human rights, democracy, sustainable development and multilateral cooperation, the association between the two regions has a decisive role in addressing the most pressing challenges facing today’s world.
The EU and LAC countries are staunch defenders of multilateralism and a rules-based and inclusive global order. EU and LAC together muster nearly one third of the votes at the UN, and include seven members of the G20. The collective leadership made a difference in addressing climate change and the destruction of biodiversity, by contributing decisively to the Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement.
Finding new ways to cooperate: joining forces for a sustainable recovery
The EU is a leading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) and the largest provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA). For the period 2021-27, it has allocated over EUR 3.4 billion under the its new financial instrument, NDICI-Global Europe, for country and regional programmes. In addition, the EU supports initiatives to promote democracy and human rights, peace and security and the region’s participation in addressing global challenges, such as climate change, through dedicated thematic programmes. The EU also has resources to allow for rapid response to emerging priorities, crisis situations and foreign policy needs.
In the 2021-2027 period, the EU will support the region’s long-term recovery following the COVID-19 health emergency. It will seek to deepen partnerships with LAC countries and regional groups to build back better, by strengthening cooperation on critical areas such as the transition to a greener development model, accelerating digital transformation, support sustainable and inclusive economic recovery, strengthening democratic governance, human rights and peace and security, while also addressing the region’s deep seated inequality and advancing social cohesion and human development.
Tapping the full potential of trade and investment links for stability and prosperity
The EU and Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) are closely interconnected in economic terms, with trade and investment flows creating jobs and opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic. Beyond the larger businesses, micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) play a central role in the societies of both regions, making up around 99% of total companies is both regions and generating the vast majority of private sector employment. MSMEs was also the sector of the economy most hardly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their recovery will be defining for the overall socio-economic wellbeing of both Europe and LAC.
EU-LAC trade is an important driver of economic growth in both regions. The EU27 is the LAC’s third largest trade partner, after the US and China, while LAC countries are the EU's fifth largest trading partner after China, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The total amount of EU merchandise trade with LAC countries was € 176 billion in 2020, or 4.8% of total EU27 trade with the world. EU-LAC trade fell by almost 16% in 2020 while due to the COVID-19 pandemic the LAC region recorded its worst trade performance since the global finance crisis, with exports and imports falling by an estimated 13% and 20 respectively.
Common values, identities, languages, and history: a genuine cultural and societal partnership
Few regions in the world can boast such strong ties, rooted in our joint history, languages, identities and a shared commitment to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and multilateralism.
In 2021 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The Charter sets out a simple, clear declaration: “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.” Europe and the Americas are among the regions with the highest share of democracies. This is the result of our shared history, cultural affinity and strong social contacts, but also of our shared principles and values, and strong belief in effective multilateralism.
Today, democracy and human rights continue to be at the centre of the EU’s partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean. The EU holds human rights dialogues with a number of countries, promotes stronger democratic institutions and human rights protection through cooperation. The EU supports democratic and peaceful outcomes in the region’s crisis situations. Electoral observation, expert and follow-up missions are deployed throughout the region.
Our common work on humanitarian, migration and peace and security issues
Latin America and Caribbean is one of the world's most disaster-prone areas and amongst the most affected by violence and forced displacement. EU humanitarian aid focuses on the populations most affected by natural hazards and man-made crises, including violence and population displacement, and on preparing communities to face multiple disasters. Droughts, floods, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions regularly devastate infrastructure, causing significant loss of lives and livelihoods, and hurricane seasons have become more extreme. The EU has earmarked €6.5 million for disaster preparedness projects in the region in 2020, in addition to immediate support in the aftermath of disasters via the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism.
The COVID-19 epidemic has hit the LAC region particularly hard: with only 8% of the world’s population, it has registered 32% of global deaths. The EU has provided humanitarian aid, with particular focus on vulnerable persons, including indigenous populations. As part of the EU global response to the coronavirus, a Humanitarian Air Bridge operation consisting of 3 flights delivered life-saving material to Peru.
The COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to build back better
Since outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU has been at the forefront of multilateral efforts to address the immediate and long-term consequences of the pandemic. The EU has been a key initiator of the global framework to accelerate the research and development of vaccines and one of the main contributors to the COVAX multilateral initiative to ensure international vaccine solidarity.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, the EU, its Member States, and financial institutions –particularly the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development- acting together as ‘Team Europe’, have committed nearly €3 billion to address the immediate health emergency and humanitarian needs, to strengthen health systems and support the economic recovery and social protection. By October 2021, COVAX had delivered over 30 million doses to 31 countries in the region. By the same date, the EU and its Member States had exported almost 40 million doses to 12 Latin American and Caribbean countries and donated more than 6 million doses to another 12 countries in the region.