The interest of the European Union to approach Latin America is not new. In recent months many European representatives have visited the region: from the President of the European Council, Charles-Micheland the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyeneven the German chancellor, Olaf Schölz. But if there is something that aims to revitalize relations between the two regions, it is the summit of heads of state of the EU and the countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which will take place in Brussels (Belgium) on July 17 and 18.
The appointment, which will be in person, is the first of these characteristics to be held in eight years. This high-level meeting is set to become the jewel in the crown of the Spanish presidency of the EU, which started earlier this month. During two days, a total of 61 leaders Latin American and European countries will try to bring positions closer together on various topics, among which the international financial architecture, food security and the environmental issue.
However, attendees are expected to discuss other major issues off the agenda: the Russian war in Ukrainethe fight between the United States and China or the possible free trade agreement between the EU and mercosur.
[El acuerdo UE-Mercosur está amenazado por el proteccionismo]
Uncomfortable guests and without Zelenski
The expected summit, however, starts marked by the controversial participation of three dictatorships: Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. The Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, traveled to Portugal on Friday, where he paid a state visit to his counterpart Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. There, Díaz-Canel assured that the participation of his country will be “active and very constructive”, and he thanked the position of the European bloc against the US blockade of the island.
The Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, has also been invited. Although his government has confirmed the attendance of a Venezuelan delegation, it is unknown if the president or his right hand will attend, delcy rodriguez. In any case, the representation of Caracas will face criticism from various sectors, including members of the European People’s Party (EPP), who have demanded that it be put in the hands of Justice both Maduro and Rodríguez as soon as they land in Brussels.
Both regimes, added to that of the Nicaraguan Daniel Ortegahave demanded the exclusion of the President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelenskywho had initially been invited by the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sanchez, as Zelenski himself had stated at a press conference. A senior EU official confirmed on Friday off the record that the Ukrainian president will not attend the summit EU-CELAC. It’s not on the agenda either. the question of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, on which some invited States -among them Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua- are positioned in favor of Moscow.
Economic blockade to Mercosur
Another issue off the agenda but one that the leaders of the South American CELAC countries hope to discuss in the corridors with their European counterparts is the possible free trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU. This project, which has been in the making for years, missed the opportunity to consolidate itself at the last summit of the South American economic organization, held on July 4 in Puerto Iguazu (Argentina).
[Uruguay, el socio díscolo de Mercosur: amenaza con irse si no hay trato con la UE ni se negocia con China]
In Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay agreed not to accept the EU’s agreement offer given the climatic demands that Brussels was asking of these countries. Uruguay, the fourth member in discord, left crestfallen a meeting in which the president Luis Lacalle Pou he would have liked to boost economic relations between the two regions.
During the summit, the European Investment Bank (EIB) will make official the financing of 800 million euros for climate action projects in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. “All projects are part of the initiative global gateway of the European Union, which supports projects that contribute to improving global and regional connectivity in the digital sectorsclimate, transport, health, energy and education,” the EIB said in a statement.
In addition, in a forum held on Friday, before the summit, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, announced that the European Commission will start negotiations to agree on a new joint memorandum of understanding with CELAC countries to prevent natural disasters. Lenarcic mentioned Brussels’ commitment to strengthen ties with the region most affected by the climate and ecological crisis, where “catastrophes will only get worse as the climate crisis progresses”.
This week’s appointment bears the signature of the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez. The meeting, which will be attended by 61 heads of State and Government, somehow inaugurates the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EUwhich will last until the end of the year.
[La presidencia española en el Consejo de la UE: qué significa, cuánto dura y para qué sirve]
The Government of Spain has shown its commitment to advance initiatives and current cooperation proposals between the EU and the American hemisphere. Nadia CalvinoSpain’s first vice president, said on Friday that this week’s summit will provide a “important occasion” for the trade agreements that the European bloc is negotiating with that region and that would be “very beneficial” for both parties, reports efe.
Calviño assured that Spain is “collaborating very closely with the European Commission to try to complete the three trade agreements that are underway with Latin America: Chile, Mexico and Mercosur“.