4th Dec 2023

Business and cocaine top EU-Bolivian talks

Brussels has announced that the EU will support Bolivian president-elect Evo Morale’s administration, but also notes that EU investments in Bolivia must be respected in Mr Morales’ eager moves to re-nationalise Bolivia’s rich energy reserves.

Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales, currently on a world-wide tour, started his official visit to Belgium on Thursday (5 January), and met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to discuss his intentions for Bolivia’s political future.

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At the meeting, Mr Solana urged Mr Morales to safeguard economic stability and judicial security to preserve EU investments in his country.

"Legal security is fundamental. This is a country in need of money from abroad", Mr Solana told Brussels reporters, but added that his meeting with Mr Morales had been "positive".

Mr Morales, set to become the first Indian leader in Bolivia's 180-year history, won the elections in December on a pledge to nationalise energy resources, appealing foremost to the poor, Indian working class who want more rights and access to the country's means of growth.

Mr Morales' statements on nationalising his country's energy reserves as the key to wiping out poverty, caused concern among companies with interests in the Latin-American country, fearing that their businesses might suffer the consequences of such a move.

In Brussels, Mr Morales intended to soothe EU concerns from foreign investors in Bolivia, saying that even after nationalisation, the exploitation of oil and gas resources would be carried out in partnerships with commercial businesses.

"We would like the oil companies to be partners, but not to be owners. We want to control the companies, so we are going to nationalise the companies."

EU fears Morales coca-plant plans

In Brussels, Mr Solana also asked Mr Morales for explanations as to what kind of drug fighting policy his administration will take on, in order to judge whether the EU can, or can not, work together with Bolivia on the matter.

The future fight against drug trafficking became a matter of deep concern for the EU during the Bolivian election campaign, following statements by Mr Morales that he would legalise the coca-plant and look for ‘alternative’ uses for the leaf.

Mr Solana said that such a policy could very well "transform into production of narco-trafficking", adding that any unilateral decision to increase acreage limits to satisfy legal consumption would have damaging consequences for Bolivia.

In Bolivia, the world’s third coca grower after Colombia and Peru, production of coca has increased by 35% from 2003, according to the UN World Drug Report.

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