Communication ahead of the Guadalajara summit
The Commission outlines its objectives regarding Latin America ahead of the Guadalajara summit of 28 May 2004. Its recommendations centre around social cohesion and regional integration.
Communication from the Commission on the Commission's objectives, in the framework of the relations between the European Union and Latin America, in view of the 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean to be held in Guadalajara (Mexico) on 28 May 2004 [COM(2004) 220 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In its relations with Latin America, the European Union is interested in intensifying dialogue on key issues and developing a political partnership which promotes global governance and strengthens multilateralism.
Commission priorities at the Guadalajara summit
Two subjects are at the heart of these priorities: social cohesion and regional integration.
Latin America records the highest average level of inequality of any region in the world. Fighting inequality, poverty and exclusion are the priority of the social cohesion objective, given that these phenomena weaken democracy and threaten peace and stability.
In this document, the Commission proposes that concrete decisions be taken by Heads of State or Government at the Guadalajara summit to achieve the following objectives:
- adopting sound and efficient policies to increase social cohesion by reducing poverty, inequalities and exclusion. Three sectors are concerned. The first is democratic governance, given that most inhabitants of Latin America do not trust the political system. What is therefore required are improvements in electoral systems, a guarantee of the independence of the judiciary, and an improvement in the functioning and representative nature of political parties. The second sector concerns social policies, which must increase access to education, health, housing and work. The third concerns public finances and fiscal policy, with the recommendation that fiscal reforms should be envisaged in order to increase the tax base, and to promote equity and to allow for adequate levels of social spending;
- encouraging the international community to support these measures;
- strengthening cooperation in the area of social cohesion. This should be centred around a sharing of European experience and a transfer of its know-how.
Regarding regional integration, the Commission considers that this is not an end in itself, but that its importance is to be found in its consequences. These consequences are:
- economic: it can help the region fulfil its potential and find a place in international markets;
- political: it can help Latin America become a more influential player on the global scene.
- Regional integration is also important in terms of stability and conflict prevention.
The EU's support to the process of sub-regional integration has taken the form of human resources development, institution building, support for the formation of customs unions and the development of common policies.
At the Madrid summit of May 2002, it was stated that the development of relations with Central America and the Andean Community should be done on a biregional basis, which was the origin of Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreements with these two regions.
Regarding Central America, the Commission recalls that the customs union planned for December 2003 has not yet materialised, and it hopes that completion will come about before the end of 2004. There is still progress to be made regarding customs and common standards. Regarding the Andean Community, a common customs classification to harmonise the common external tariff should come into force in 2005.
An association agreement between the EU and these two regions would be possible if two preconditions were met: the completion of the Doha development agenda and the achievement of a sufficient degree of regional integration. With a view to opening negotiations, the Commission proposes to draw up criteria for measuring progress in the two regions. Three elements have therefore been identified: a fully operational institutional framework, the reduction of non-tariff obstacles to intra-regional trade and the creation of a customs union compatible with Art. XXIV of GATT and notified to the WTO.
The goal for Mercosur is the opening of a single market by 1 January 2006. EU-Mercosur negotiations should result in an interregional association, but there is still progress to be made on institutional and trade aspects before this can come about. For trade, the completion of the customs union is indispensable, as it is essential that intra-regional rules are in force in areas subject to inter-regional negotiations. It is expected that the trade chapter will include a free trade agreement in goods and services.
Finally, the Commission also supports the regional integration process in the Caribbean.
In this text, the Commission reviews the achievements of the Rio de Janeiro summit, in June 1999, which sought to establish a strategic partnership based on fruitful political dialogue, solid economic and financial relations and more creative and dynamic cooperation.
Following the Rio summit, it was decided at the Madrid summit of May 2002 that more effective political dialogue should be pursued. The Association Agreement with Chile was also drawn up. The Madrid policy declaration provided a political mandate to negotiate political dialogue and cooperation agreements with the Andean community and Central America. Association agreements were possible providing two preconditions were met: the completion of the Doha development round and the achievement of a sufficient degree of regional integration.
In November 2002, the EU signed an association agreement with Chile. In December 2003, two political dialogue agreements with Central America and the Andean Community were signed.
At the sub-regional level, Community cooperation focuses on regional integration. It involves:
- a project for "Harmonisation of Technical Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedures", aimed at facilitating the free circulation of goods between Mercosur member countries, and between Mercosur and the European Union;
- a trade-related technical assistance programme to support the process of creating the Common Andean Market;
- a programme supporting the integration of Central America.
At regional level, the Commission:
- contributes to the programme for democratic governance in Latin America;
- has approved the creation of the Observatory of European Union-Latin America relations;
- has set up a website for the presentation and dissemination of EU-Latin American and Caribbean bi-regional projects.
For more detailed information on relations between the EU and Latin America, see the region's web page on the European External Action Service website.