Leaders from the European Union (EU) and Latin America convened on Monday for a highly anticipated summit, marking their first major meeting in eight years. The COVID-19 pandemic and Brazil’s temporary departure from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) had created a sense of distance between the two regions. However, hopes were high for a positive and fruitful reunion, despite lingering uncertainties.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged the changes that have occurred during the extended period of separation, emphasizing the need for close collaboration amidst uncertain times. Yet, concerns and divisions persisted, ranging from the conflict in Ukraine to trade disputes, deforestation, and calls for slavery reparations. These factors have added an extra layer of complexity to the summit, making a successful meeting one where participants commit to meeting more frequently moving forward.
The EU, comprising 27 member states, acknowledges its role in contributing to the strained relationship with Latin America. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares of Spain, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, recognized the historical neglect, stating, “For too many years, Europe has been turning its back on what is, without a doubt, by far the most Euro-compatible region on the planet.” The EU’s colonial past, marked by exploitative practices and slavery, has contributed to lingering grievances.
Focusing on Trade, Environment, and Historical Injustices: Key Issues on the Summit Agenda
Even after gaining independence from European powers, trade between the regions often favoured European interests, perpetuating an imbalanced relationship. However, the 21st century has seen China expanding its influence and trade activities in Latin America. Posing a geo-strategic challenge for the EU.
The summit serves as an opportunity to rebuild and strengthen ties between the EU and Latin America. Recognizing the mutual benefits of collaboration. Addressing issues such as trade, environmental concerns, and historical injustices will be crucial to fostering a more equitable and inclusive partnership.
While uncertainties surround the outcome of the summit, the gathering symbolizes a renewed commitment to dialogue and cooperation. Leaders from both sides aim to navigate the changing global landscape and establish a solid foundation for future engagement.
As the summit unfolds, it remains to be seen how the EU and Latin America will address their shared challenges and forge a path towards enhanced cooperation and mutual prosperity.