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New EU-Latin America partnership on the eve of the 21st century

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Following the positive results of the cooperation strategy initiated in 1995 with Latin America, the Commission wishes to strengthen links with the region in view of shared interests and a convergent approach to world affairs. The aims of the European Union are the setting-up of a strategic partnership to strengthen the partners' hand in negotiations, economic and trade cooperation to promote smoother integration into the world economy and increased aid for cooperation. The objective is to deal in a coordinated way with the new challenges and involve civil society in the process.

ACT

Communication from the Commission of 9 March 1999 on a new European Union-Latin America partnership on the eve of the 21st century [COM(99) 105 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The European Union's political and economic objectives at international level must be furthered by the development of partnerships with other regions. The partnership with Latin America, initiated in Rio in 1992, is an example of this. It is based on shared values and priorities such as the pursuit of peace and security, and on the strengthening of democracy and the promotion of human rights.

The Commission emphasises that the European experience can serve as a benchmark for Latin America in areas such as participatory democracy, economic integration, culture and training "leaders" in a diverse cultural and linguistic environment. The Commission proposes a dialogue between the EU and Latin America based on the principle of multilateralism, regional integration and social cohesion.

The Commission underlines the importance of strengthening its relations with Latin America and consolidating the 1995 strategy (covering the period 1996-2000), while at the same time taking account of new challenges such as globalisation.

The three main lines of action still focus on political and strategic issues, economic and trade issues, and cooperation. The Commission welcomes the progress made by Latin America in managing domestic matters (strengthening their institutions, consolidating democracy and the rule of law) and integrating into the international economic and political world scene (liberalising their economies, opening up their markets, joining the WTO, etc.).

The new challenges

The Commission knows, however, that a sustained effort will be necessary in the face of new challenges:

  • consolidating democracy;
  • smooth integration into the world economy;
  • stepping up regional integration processes;
  • a more equitable distribution of wealth, which presupposes a stable macroeconomic climate;
  • industrial development respecting the principles of sustainable development;
  • close attention to investment in human resources.

In parallel, the Commission calls for joint efforts to be made to parry the adverse effects of globalisation, a phenomenon that both the EU and Latin America are having to deal with. It is crucial to avoid the aggravation or the creation of disparities between haves and have-nots. Managing this phenomenon entails strengthening the domestic policies of developing countries, refocusing international aid on the countries that need it most, pursuing gradual economic liberalisation and strengthening the international financial system by equipping it with its own supervisory and regulatory machinery.

New impetus for the partnership

EU-Latin America relations have developed through three phases. The initial priority for development aid was followed by the opening-up of economic partnership, culminating in the present phase, which is governed by a regional approach and relations based on respect for democracy and human rights. The Commission proposes to strengthen its Latin America strategy based on a dialogue covering three essential issues: the establishment of a strategic alliance, sustainable development and a dialogue involving civil society.

The aim of the strategic partnership is to strengthen the partners' hand in negotiations on the international stage, based on a shared vision of the world. The EU and Latin America share a desire for an international system founded on the principles of multilateralism and governed by universally recognised rules and multilateral surveillance systems. It is therefore in the interest of both parties to work together.

The priority areas are:

  • organisation: reform of the United Nations system, establishment of machinery for preventing and resolving conflicts, etc.;
  • law-making and enforcement: non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, migration, illegal trafficking, etc.;
  • promotion of shared values: human rights, democratisation, sustainable development, financial stability and social justice.

To achieve this strategic partnership, dialogue must be stepped up on three levels: Latin America as a whole, regional groupings and civil society. At the level of Latin America as a whole, major horizontal issues of common interest could be discussed, and special sectoral, thematic or technical meetings organised. The Commission considers, however, that it is the regional groupings that must remain the EU's key political partners. This policy fosters the establishment of political ties and concertation mechanisms, thereby helping increase the representativeness of these groupings abroad. It also increases flexibility and enables aid to be better geared to the circumstances of each. Civil society should play an active part in the process to make political cooperation more democratic and less bureaucratic.

The objective of strengthening economic and trade cooperation is to promote the smooth integration of both parties' economies into the world economy by developing systems of production that comply with environmental and social protection rules. To achieve this, cooperation must be stepped up on a series of issues:

  • the development of markets and regional integration to foster solvent domestic demand;
  • the stabilisation of financial flows;
  • incentives for sustainable development, for which increased stability, transparency and predictability are crucial;
  • boosting trade through the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which applies to all the countries in the region except for Mexico and Mercosur/Chile, which have their own framework for relations.

Financial cooperation must also be strengthened. The EU is the main source of development assistance to Latin America, most of it in the form of grants. The key is to guarantee the quality of the measures financed and ensure irreproachable management. Impact must be maximised by targeting assistance better, concluding a clear and comprehensive legal framework for action, ensuring close coordination between donors and giving increased attention to evaluation. As for the sectors of intervention, cooperation must be focused primarily on flanking measures and schemes complementing the policies pursued, which will focus on a limited number of sectors to ensure consistency.

The Commission's key cooperation issues will be:

  • promoting human rights;
  • institutional support and the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law;
  • the fight against poverty and social exclusion;
  • education and training;
  • support for regional integration and economic and industrial cooperation;
  • decentralised cooperation in the field of culture and the promotion of common values.

The EU and the countries of Latin America

The EU's relations with Latin America as a whole comprise two components: the political dialogue with the Rio Group (which has led to substantial progress in the adoption of common positions) and cooperation focusing on the guidelines of the 1995 strategy, which has proved positive. The EU is also Latin America's main source of development assistance, providing over 60 % of all assistance to the region (approximately 2.2 billion), and the region's second largest trade and investment partner.

With Central America, cooperation is based on the 1993 framework agreement, which remains valid until the ratification and entry into force of the new political dialogue and cooperation agreement signed in December 2003. The renewal of the San José political dialogue in 1996 and the Florence Declaration of the same year contributed to giving new impetus to the EU's involvement in the region's development. Emphasis is placed on consolidating the rule of law, modernising government, social policies, trade development and regional integration.

With the Andean Community, the EU instituted a framework for political dialogue in 1996, known as the Rome Declaration, which provides for meetings at presidential and ministerial level. In December 2003, the dialogue resulted in the signing of a political dialogue and cooperation agreement which will replace the 1996 Declaration once it is ratified. Combating drug production and trafficking is one of the main issues in the region and is the subject of a high-level dialogue between the EU and the Andean Community. The Andean countries are beneficiaries of the GSP in their trade relations with the EU.

The EU's relations with Chile are based on the 1996 framework agreement for cooperation, which replaced the 1990 agreement. In November 2002, an association agreement was signed and some provisions (trade, institutional framework, etc.) have been in force on a transitional basis since February 2003.

In the case of Mercosur, the basic instrument is the interregional EU-Mercosur framework cooperation agreement signed in December 1995, which entered into force on 1 July 1999. It aims at enhancing political dialogue, progressively establishing a free-trade area and deepening cooperation.

With Mexico, an economic partnership, political coordination and cooperation agreement (global agreement) was signed in 1997 and entered into force on 1 October 2000. There is also an interim agreement on trade. With these agreements, the EU and Mexico have embarked on an enhanced political dialogue, the liberalisation of their trade through the establishment of a free-trade area and the introduction of cooperation instruments.

RELATED ACTS

Declaration of the Rio Summit of 29 June 1999.

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Follow-up to the first summit between Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union [COM(2000) 670 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The purpose of this Communication is to set out the general principles and actions that the Commission intends to take to contribute to meeting the priorities resulting from the June 1999 EU, Latin America and Caribbean Rio Summit. It aims to give impetus to the follow-up.

For more information, please see the site relating to the Rio Summit on the website of the Directorate-General for External Relations.

Last updated: 20.05.2008
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