24th Feb 2024

War of words on Russia mars EU-Latin America summit

  • Language about Russia's war in Ukraine was watered down (Photo: European Union)
Listen to article

Disagreement on Russia's war in Ukraine overshadowed the finale of a summit between EU and Latin American and Caribbean leaders on Tuesday (18 July), with no consensus among the 60 participating countries on "strongly" denouncing Moscow's aggression.

All 27 EU member states and 32 countries of the 33-strong Celac [Latin America and the Caribbean] group agreed on a watered-down text that expressed just "deep concerns" over "the ongoing war against Ukraine" instead of condemning the war "in the strongest possible terms".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Nicaragua boycotted the paragraph of the conclusions on Ukraine.

This came as little surprise since its president Daniel Ortega, who has ruled the country since 2007, was among the first world leaders to back Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Nicaragua was also the only Celac country which voted against a UN resolution condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and calling for the withdrawal of troops from the country — while Cuba, Bolivia, and El Salvador abstained.

Meanwhile, commenting on the watered-down communique, Celac president and prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, told the press: "Not everyone got the language that they wanted."

But the summit was still labelled by many EU and Latin American officials as a success.

"In times of great geopolitical change, like-minded friends like us need to get closer," said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen after the meeting.

'Rewrite history'

The difficulties over the finalisation of the joint communique became noticeable as leaders faced the second day of the summit without an agreement on the conclusions.

Arriving at the summit on Tuesday, Luxemburg prime minister Xavier Bettel said it would be a "shame" if the leaders of both regions were unable to say that there is Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The summit outcome cannot be used to "rewrite history", he said.

"The fact is that Russia aggressed Ukraine ... we have to face the reality," Bettel added. "If we don't see it as aggression, what is it?", he also said.

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said ahead of the meeting that the joint statement had to include strong language in support of Ukraine.

Sometimes it is better to have no conclusions than to have weak language that does not mean anything, he added.

The Chilean minister of foreign affairs Alberto van Klaveren, for his part, had predicted on Tuesday morning that a compromise on the issue would be "very difficult".

"We are very surprised that there are members of our [Celac] group which oppose any resolution concerning the war in Ukraine," van Klaveren said.

"We think it's a war of aggression, that's the position of Chile," he added.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also warned that Russia is "using hunger as a weapon" with its decision to withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal.

"This requires a strong answer from the international community", the said.

Watered-down text

But Cuba, Venezuela and other countries with friendly Russia ties, as well as Nicaragua, dug in their heels as the summit entered its second day, before the final compromise on merely "deep" concern.

The participation of Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela also raised concerns among members of the European Parliament, who highlighted in a resolution earlier this month that "autocratic regimes" should not be invited to such events.

The EU-Celac conclusions also cite a UN resolution which reflects on the need to lift the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba, arguing that its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism has undermined international financial transactions with the island.

With billboards condemning "dictatorships" in Latin America, several NGOs and activists protested on Monday against the representation of leaders from places such as Cuba and Venezuela in the summit.

However, MEP Javi Lopez who heads the delegation to the Euro-Latin American parliamentary assembly, told EUobserver that having an "inclusive" and "representative" event is what made it possible, following eight years of no such meetings.

EU-Latin America summit labeled 'historic', despite tension

The European Union is pushing to revive its relationship with Latin American and Caribbean countries, particularly highlighting the importance of trade deals and investments in the region in the current geopolitical context.


EU aims to revive cooperation with Latin America This WEEK

The EU-CELAC summit will take place in Brussels this week, after after eight years of hiatus. But disagreements over the condemnation of Russia's war in Ukraine have complicated the finalisation of the joint agreement.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us