Well, we have been in Berlin discussing about Latin America. We had a big meeting with all the Latin American Ministers. It's time to talk about Latin America and put it more on the radar and on the agenda of the European Union.
What was the objective of the EU-Latin America and Caribbean Informal Ministerial Meeting?
It's been five years since there was a summit between Europe and Latin America. This is an anomaly in the relations between Europeans and that part of the world with which we have very close political, historical and cultural affinity and with which we are linked by very important institutional and economic ties. That is why this ministerial meeting was particularly important to mark a point of reunion and to open up ways of improving our cooperation and our political dialogue.
How can we respond to COVID? How can we face global challenges such as climate change or the digital transformation? And how can we strengthen our commercial ties? I think these are very important issues.
Latin America and the Caribbean seem very far away. Why is it important for the European Union?
It is not a problem of physical distance. We are now talking a lot about the new transatlantic relationship. Looking at Washington as if the Atlantic was just the North Atlantic. There is another transatlantic relationship. There is another Atlantic. The South Atlantic. We are transatlantic also with Latin America and we should be engaged with this transatlantic relationship. First, because we invest a lot in Latin America. European companies have invested in Latin America more than in China, Japan, Russia and India combined. When I am told this, I am amazed. We are their main partner in development. In addition, there are six million people who moved from Europe to Latin America or vice versa and we have many cultural and historical ties. Centuries of history and above all, many common values. We would not find many people who look at the world as much with the same eyes. Moreover, Latin America has an enormous growth potential. The Chinese don't question why they have to go there, they just go. China is engaging with investments, with trade, with aid, with cultural presence. If Europe wants to have influence, and it wants to have it because it wants to be a geopolitical actor, it has to pay more attention to Latin America and the Caribbean. Much more.
What kind of support the EU is providing to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Latin America has been hit very hard by the pandemic because of its socio-economic structure. We are talking about highly populated cities, with weak urban planning, large concentration of domestic migrants, with a weak sanitary system. The pandemic has highlighted the structural socio-economic weaknesses in Latin American.
In economic terms, the region is heading for a new and difficult decade. It is falling behind in terms of poverty, inequality and economic growth. What do we do to help? Well, we do less than necessary, without any doubt. We have mobilised 2.5 billion to deal with the health consequences, but I am aware that this figure, although it seems large, is rather small. We will have to tighten up our cooperation, but that has to be above all an economic one. And that it is why it is important that we support development, and trade is one way of doing that. And we have partnership agreements, some of which have been reached, because we need to renew and modernise.
How can we achieve a sustainable recovery model?
Latin America accounts for 50% of the world's biodiversity. The issue that concerns us so much, because it is disappearing, 50% is there, in Latin America, where we find one of the two great lungs of the planet: the Amazon rainforest. And it has so much land that is not populated and it is just a reservoir for nature. It is a cocktail of environmental and climatic opportunities and problems. And I know perfectly well, it is no secret, that the ratification of the Mercosur agreement is pending because of environmental concerns and policies. But we must ask ourselves how we can best ensure a climate policy, an environmental policy, the defence of biodiversity, and the fight against deforestation. How do we best protect nature? With an agreement or without an agreement? What are the instruments that we acquire by means of an agreement that allows us to share efforts and offer mutual opportunities? I think it would be very bad for the relations between Europe and Latin America if we were not able to come to a conclusion.I am not talking about reopening, renegotiating the agreements, but I am talking about giving legitimate satisfaction to the concerns of both sides. That requires political will that we have to mobilise. All of this must be the objective of a complementary agreement, highlighting the positive aspects of what has been achieved. And finally, we must take the situation of these countries very seriously into consideration. We should not only see it from the European perspective. They also have their own expectations and needs to be met. There are many people living in energy poverty. There are a billion people who have never seen an electric light. And many of them live in Latin America. Therefore, we have to put ourselves in the perspective of a different reality from our own, and take into account the demands of a form of development that must be sustainable, but that must bring about development. It does not mean lowering the levels of commitment to reduce emissions, but doing this in a fair way. And that will be one of the issues that we will have to discuss further, because I believe that we cannot allow 20 years of negotiations to end in failure.
Will there be a bi-regional summit sooon?
I hope so. I hope that next year we will have a summit but for that we will have to give it content.It only makes sense if we push forward and I insist, there are three fundamental agreements: the one with Chile, which was the first to be signed. It has produced an extraordinarily positive result. It has increased our trade and investment relations a great deal, it has strengthened our ties. But it needs to be updated, modernised. The agreement with Mexico has also been very successful. We need to update it. The agreements there are almost finalised. And finally, the most difficult, the broadest, the newest, because it was never signed, is the Mercosur agreement, where we have had to overcome protectionist stances on the part of both Europe and Latin America.
And which we must resolve, I insist, through a reinforced dialogue between the parties, who must commit themselves to seeking together a path that favours sustainable and fair economic development. And we can do this much better together.