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Minister – my dear friend Oscar – ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here in Lima today. I would like to thank foreign minister [Oscar] Maúrtua very sincerely for welcoming me today in this wonderful palace in such a warm, dignified manner. Thank you very much, Minister. I will not be able to match this welcome when you visit us in Brussels. You have welcomed me exceptionally warmly, for which I thank you on my own behalf and on behalf of the European Union.
This is my first visit to a Latin American country since taking up the post of High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy almost two years ago. Peru is my first destination in Latin America. I would thus like to demonstrate and underscore the importance that the European Union attaches to its relations with Peru at such a special moment in its political life. We would like to make the most of this moment to consolidate and deepen our cooperation.
Peru is a key partner for the European Union. We have bilateral, regional and multilateral relations on our common agenda. In fact, Oscar, it was at the United Nations that we last met. We have strong reasons driving us to work together to confront global challenges such as climate change, which is so much in the spotlight today; drug trafficking, an enormous problem for the world and the Latin American region in particular; the pandemic, which has hit Peru extraordinarily hard, and I know that the current government is making the fight against this disease a priority; and the fight against poverty and inequality.
We have association agreements in place representing a stable framework and helping us to maintain a constructive relationship. I would also like us to make the most of the opportunities that our cooperation affords for our citizens in both regions, starting with trade. I have had a very interesting account from the Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism [Roberto Sánchez], and have learned about the progress made by Peru in becoming a global player.
The European Union and Peru have had a free trade agreement in place since 2013 – almost ten years. This has generated €8 billion, and we Europeans are your third largest trading partner. I am certain that our cooperation is going to continue to create opportunities, especially for farmers, as it has for exports to the European Union by many small businesses set up on the basis of this opportunity.
The same goes for security. Peru has long experience in international peace and security missions, and I am delighted that we will soon be able to sign a cooperation agreement. I would have liked to have done so today, but we will do it soon. This agreement will make it possible for the Peruvian Armed Forces, which have received me this morning in such a dignified manner, to participate in the 17 European Union missions and operations all around the world. This will contribute to peace and security in widely differing places across the globe.
As I was saying before, the pandemic is and will, unfortunately, continue to be a key element in governments’ fight to ensure their people’s welfare. We will only be able to defeat it when the whole world has access to vaccines. We often repeat that ‘none of us will be safe until everyone is safe’, because as long as there are people carrying the disease, there will continue to be a risk of contagion.
Peru has received three million vaccines from the European Union through COVAX. In particular Spain, the European country I know the best, has also made its own contribution. I am pleased to announce that we are going to sign a cooperation agreement on universal access to healthcare, to which the European Union will contribute €14 million. This is because we believe that universal access to healthcare is the strongest proof of a country’s social cohesion.
Minister, President [of the Congress of the Republic of Peru, María del Carmen Alva], we will also work with Peru on the post-pandemic economic recovery. I am pleased to note that our cooperation programme will mobilise €57 million in the next three years to promote green, inclusive investment and strengthen social protection.
Minister, you can count on the European Union’s help with developing your social policy agenda. In this regard, today we are launching a major cooperation programme to combat gender-based violence, a scourge to be fought in all countries.
We are also concerned about the declining faith in democracy seen on the Latin American continent, as indicated by the recent Latinobarometer which I was reading on the plane coming here. I could say the same about the Eurobarometer, because this loss of faith is not confined to Latin America: it is also a problem for European societies. According to the Latinobarometer, a mere 49% of the population supports democracy. To buck this trend and kick-start an economic and social post-pandemic recovery, it is essential to maintain democratic stability and dialogue between institutions. However, democracy is strengthened through processes that enable people to freely elect their leaders and to respect the results of elections, however closely run they are, whoever wins them and whatever the margin of difference separating the frontrunners.
Tomorrow I will see President [of Peru, Pedro] Castillo, and yourself, President [of the Congress of the Republic] María del Carmen Alva. I will also have the opportunity to talk to business-sector representatives and civil society organisations. I want to better understand their vision for the democratic and human rights development agenda in Peru. These are also very important issues for us. This afternoon I will have the opportunity to meet women from the Sarhua community working on a project co-financed by the European Union that supports craftswomen in their personal development and full integration into society.
Hence we have a broad cooperation agenda based on mutual respect. It could not be any other way. I am delighted to be back in Peru. I came here many years ago as a Spanish national Minister and I am very pleased to be back, this time representing a much larger political community than that of my own country. I hope that this visit will make Europeans pay Latin America the attention that this great continent deserves.
Minister, thank you very much for everything.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-213243