Monday

26th Aug 2019

Brussels' commitment to Latin American integration questioned

The European Commission is hoping to boost EU-Latin American relations with the creation of a joint forum that will bring together the two sides on a permanent basis and launch of a new investment fund. But civil society organisations and some Latin American officials believe Europe is steadily abandoning its support for regional integration on the EU model on the continent.

The proposal, for an EU-Latin America and Caribbean Foundation, was made on Tuesday (29 September) within Brussels' strategy document on relations between the two regions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • On the surface, relations are cordial between the EU and Latin America, but the shift to the left in many countries is creating tensions all the same (Photo: alittlefishy)

The foundation, which the commission aims to launch in spring next year following the next EU-Latin American summit, to be held in Spain, would exist as a kind of secretariat that would prepare summits and maintain the dialogue between meetings.

The commission presented its renewed policy for the region, assessing the state of play of the bi-regional relationship and outlining the targets and objectives for the coming years.

The EU, which is the leading donor of development assistance to Latin America, also hopes to set up a new financial instrument to leverage millions of euros to bank-roll energy infrastructure, environmental projects and combat poverty.

The Latin America Investment Facility, (LAIF), modelled on a similar instrument for Europe's neighbouring states to the east and south, would mobilise resources from financial institutions to support projects in energy infrastructure, energy efficiency and renewable energy, transport, the environment and social cohesion.

While no figures were announced, the Neighbourhood Investment Facility has used €71 million in grants as leverage for projects worth €2.7 billion. The commission hopes the LAIF would be able to encourage similar sums for development in Latin America.

"By working together better, we directly contribute to peace and stability in the region and to its further development by increasing social cohesion, improving democratic governance and deepening regional integration," said external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

The document was published on the occasion of the ten-year anniversary of the launch of the EU's strategic partnership - the bloc's mechanism of formalising relations with foreign countries - with the region.

Biennially, the two regions hold summits to develop the relationship, and since 1999, the commission has launched negotiations on association agreements, including trade accords, with the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) and Central America.

But beneath the friendly discourse of Ms Ferrero-Walder, relations are not infrequently choppy.

After months of talks between Brussels and the CAN, negotiations were ultimately suspended, with Ecuador and Bolivia feeling that the EU was pressing for concessions that would undermine domestic industries. Talks were also frozen with Central America as a result of the coup d'etat in Honduras.

Negotiations over an association agreement with Mercosur, the continent's third regional customs union, have been on hold since 2004.

Regional integration no longer a goal?

Ecuador's former economy minister Pedro Paez Pérez, who is also a member of the UN's high-level task force on the global financial crisis, told EUobserver that he feels Brussels places too much emphasis on trade agreements that are more advantageous for European businesses than Latin American citizens.

"Europe could have a much more decisive role in building another kind of relationship, a more positive one than we have traditionally had with other powers," he said in Brussels.

Mr Perez is on a tour of Europe in an attempt to drum up investment support for the Banco del Sur - the South American alternative to the International Monetary Fund - and the Sucre, the proposed common currency for the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the regional co-operation organisation of nine Latin American and Carribbean nations.

"But instead, in the case of the EU-CAN negotiations, you have increasing pressures for free trade agreements that exacerbate the already existing differences between Andean countries with very negative contributions to peace in this zone."

Last year, Brussels entered into a new round of negotiations with just two of the countries in the CAN: Peru and Colombia, who both have more conservative leadership and are much more amenable to the EU's negotiating position.

Latin America watchers worry that the decision to split the talks will reverse the Andean regional integration process, a process the EU says in its document it holds as a key goal.

Gustavo Hernandez, of the EU-CAN Alliance, a network of Andean civil society organisations, told this website that the commission document "seems to leave aside the sub-regional integration process in Latin America - Central America, Andean Community and Mercosur."

Mr Hernandez is worried that the announcement of the LAIF investment facility will be used as a way to de-emphasise regional integration.

"Is it simply a shift from the traditional support of the European Commission for the regional integration process to a more pragmatic approach through the Investment Facility?" he asked.

Camilo Tovar, of the Latin American Association of Promotion Organisations (Alop) also feared that the LAIF had the potential to undermine environmental protection.

Although the commission document underlines Europe continuing to support "developing sustainable infrastructure," Mr Tovar said that there is no suggestion of any changes to existing practices even though current European investment flows are not backing genuine sustainability.

"Of particular importance is the Initiative for Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA) and a series of mega-projects such as Rio Madera: a multi-billion dollar hydroelectric complex which threatens one of the Amazon Basin's main southern tributaries," he said.

He added that the Santa Cruz-Puerto Suarez "bio-oceanic transportation corridor" in Bolivia, also threatens the global weather regulatory capacity of the Amazon basin. Construction was launched in 2002 with €57 million in funds from the European Investment Bank.

Enormous delay

Ms Ferrero-Waldner conceded that regional integration was not proceeding as she would like.

"I don't think we can talk about failure of regional integration, although certainly, I will grant you there's been an enormous delay," she told reporters in Brussels. "We are trying to help various regions to come together and to follow the model of the EU. We've done what we can, but the ball is in their court."

Exclusive

Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

A European financial regulatory body set up after the financial crisis is at loggerheads with the European Commission over whether to carry out a transparency review of certain financial products. The reason: Brexit.

Commission defends Mercosur trade deal

EU commissioners defended a far-reaching free trade agreement between the EU and four Latin American countries, against critics who fear it will damage European farmers' livelihoods and the global environment.

EU hesitates to back France over US tariff threat

France has passed a new tax on tech companies that will affect US global giants like Facebook. Donald Trump has threatened retaliatory tariffs over it. The EU commission says it will "coordinate closely with French" on the next steps.

EU banks more vulnerable to shocks than feared

Eurozone banks, such as Deutsche Bank, might be much more vulnerable to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis than EU "stress-tests" have said, according to a new audit.

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Western leaders disagree on Russia, Iran, and Brazil
  2. Belgium: Parties clash on Reynders as EU commissioner
  3. Spain heading for yet another general election
  4. EU to discuss Brazil beef ban over Amazon fires
  5. 'Our house is burning,' Macron says on Amazon fires
  6. What happens when trafficking survivors get home
  7. EU states and Russia clash on truth of WW2 pact
  8. EU considers new rules on facial recognition

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us