Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Europe, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

Latin America, EU Express Unity in Face of Economic Crisis

Tito Drago

MADRID, May 18 2010 (IPS) - The leaders of the 60 European Union, Latin American and Caribbean nations meeting in the capital of Spain agreed Tuesday that unity between the two regions is essential to weathering the global economic crisis.

The summit’s host, socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said at the opening of the gathering that the two regions separated by the Atlantic ocean are “global partners facing global challenges.”

In that task, the “global partners” should open and not close borders, Zapatero added, reflecting the position stated by the delegations of Argentina and Bolivia, which urged the EU not to discriminate against immigrants.

The 43-point declaration issued by the Sixth European Union-Latin America/Caribbean Summit (EU-LAC) says the “diversification and complementarity of the energy” mix is indispensable to the eradication of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 target date.

This can be achieved, it adds, by developing renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, changing current consumption and production patterns, and improving regional energy interconnectivity.

The declaration also reiterates the two regions’ commitment to fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity.

“We will exchange experiences on biofuel technology, norms and regulations, on hydroelectric and on other energies,” says point number 13.

One of the concrete measures adopted at the summit was the creation of the Latin America Investment Facility (LAIF). For the 2010-2011 period, 17 projects have been identified, representing a total investment of some 3.5 billion euros (4.3 billion dollars).

The leaders also expressed a commitment to fighting impunity for crimes against humanity in all countries of both regions.

The final declaration says “we reaffirm our commitment to fight impunity, in particular for the most serious crimes under international law, notably those referred to in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Their prosecution should be ensured by taking measures at the national or appropriate level and by enhancing international cooperation.”

In addition, they “invite those countries which are not parties to consider the possibility to ratify or accede, as applicable, to the Rome Statute”, which created the ICC.

The heads of state and government and other representatives paid special attention to equality between women and men and condemned gender violence.

They also approved the establishment of the EU-LAC Foundation, which will serve as “a useful tool for strengthening our bi-regional partnership and a means of triggering debate on common strategies and actions as well as enhancing its visibility.”

The site of the headquarters of the Foundation, which will have an initial budget of three million euros (3.6 million dollars), has yet to be determined. The candidates are Germany, France and Italy.

During the summit, representatives of the EU and South America’s Mercosur trade bloc — the Southern Common Market, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — met and agreed to resume talks for a free trade agreement, although France and other countries expressed opposition to continuing the negotiations, which have been stalled since 2004.

Zapatero applauded the decision to relaunch the talks towards an “ambitious, balanced association agreement,” which, if achieved, would be the EU’s most important free trade accord and would create a free trade zone representing 750 million people with annual inter-regional commerce worth nearly 100 billion euros (123 billion dollars).

The declaration also expressed “satisfaction” with the conclusion of a multi-party trade agreement between the EU, Colombia and Peru, and an association agreement between the EU and Central America.

The leaders renewed their commitment to solidarity with earthquake-devastated Haiti, which Zapatero said was in need of “recovering dignity and hope.”

Leaders absent from the summit included Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Cuba’s Raúl Castro, Uruguay’s José Mujica (on doctor’s orders), Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, Britain’s David Cameron, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who left after Monday’s opening dinner.

Some 80 non-governmental organisations, meeting ahead of the summit, issued a statement saying “We believe that the current crisis is an opportunity to advance more decisively with respect to alternatives for change that comprise the complexity and integrity of the political, social, environmental, cultural and economic processes on our continents.”

The NGOs also stated that “The international cooperation role cannot be reduced to the meeting of urgent needs and in no case be used as an instrument at the service of commercial and political interests,” but must be directed towards promoting development.

They called for the development of a “new architecture of global governance” and the reinforcement of the “democratic and participative nature” of national, regional and multilateral institutions.

The leaders agreed that the next summit will be held in Chile, whose new president, the conservative Sebastián Piñera, said he was not overly satisfied with the result of Tuesday’s meeting in Madrid.

Piñera said he hoped that the summit that his country will host in 2012 will be “the first with 21st century methods, speed and rhythm, and that we will tackle the problems with the same speed with which they occur.”

He said the summit in Madrid had achieved results, but added that “I frankly believe they fell short,” because old problems were tackled “with old solutions” when what are needed are innovations.

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