Strasbourg, 17 April 2019
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Forse dovrei dirlo in italiano: non uso mai la mia lingua, quindi forse in questo caso lo faccio. Forse per la mia nazionalità, è sempre stato normale considerare un investimento nella relazione e nella amicizia con la America Latina, nel partenariato con l'America Latina e i Caraibi, un investimento intelligente – non scontato, necessario per l’Unione Europea, sia in termini politici, sia in termini economici, sia in termini di sviluppo e anche di cooperazione sulla scena globale. Per me è semplicemente stato naturale, quindi, visitare l'America Latina e incontrare il nostri partner latino-americani esattamente tanto quanto – se non di più – ho visitato e incontrato i nostri partner del resto del mondo.
Perché è un continente con il quale abbiamo un potenziale enorme di cooperazione e che spesso si è sentito trascurato dall’Unione europea, proprio perché non presentava particolari problemi. Credo che questo investimento che abbiamo fatto insieme nel rafforzare i legami tra Latino-America, Caraibi e l’Unione Europea ci consenta anche di avere un rapporto transatlantico sano: perché il rapporto transatlantico non è soltanto quello che abbiamo con Washington, è anche quello che abbiamo con l’America Centrale, con l’America Meridionale, con il Canada e con i Caraibi.
I thank you for this opportunity to present this strategy today because I think this is indeed a good way of presenting more than one year of work, based on consultations with various stakeholders, including parliaments, civil society, both in Europe and in Latin America, and also thanks to your inputs to the document we present today.
This is one of the last strategy documents that this Commission adopts. It will be up to the next Commission to implement it and to put it into practice. I think that the timing is important to conclude this mandate stating clearly that we have brought cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean countries to a different level and to leave our mandate with this basis as a legacy.
First, for the European Union to confirm the commitment to Latin America and the Caribbean, notwithstanding the challenges related to regional integration in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is at a crossroads.
Second, to draw lessons from experience over the past five years and offer a good basis to start from for the next High Representative/Vice-President, for the next [European] Commission itself and, hopefully, for the next [European] Parliament.
And, third, to lay the groundwork for what we hope to achieve under the next budget cycle, as preparations move ahead for cooperation in 2021-2027 through EU financial instruments.
I believe the strategy is based on very solid foundations, which are the result of years of unprecedented coordination and cooperation between our continents. This is true, in particular, on three main domains. I will briefly mention the three of them: first in economic terms, second in political terms, and, third, our cooperation on global issues.
On economic terms, we often underestimate the potential of our economic cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean. I think this is a mistake. In ten years, our investments in Latin America have doubled and it is a quality investment. Our partners and friends in Latin America see this very clearly. The quality of our investments is different from the quality of other investments. We tend to invest in quality jobs, green economy, and digital economy. The kind of investments that the Latin American societies are demanding to have the kind of social development they aspire to.
The EU has signed association, free trade or political and cooperation agreements with 27 of the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries. Trade agreements are already applied with several countries: Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, among others. In addition, we have been negotiating a new generation of trade agreements with Mexico, Chile and Mercosur that will open a completely different chapter, upgrading the level of our trade agreements with these countries to a level of protection of standards and workers' rights, trademark products and environment that are completely new to our cooperation.
Second, on the political cooperation. Maybe this would be more the issue for our conversation and our exchanges so maybe I would leave more the floor to you on this.
If you think of the peace process in Colombia, the efforts we are putting in place to find a peaceful and democratic outcome to the crisis in Venezuela or the work we have started to do with Cuba - not only to normalize our relations, but also to open the human rights dialogue with the country – and of all the other countries with whom we have intensified our political dialogue – not always easy but it is always frank and constructive –, you can easily see how much we have upgraded our political dialogue and cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries. I guess we will go more in detail about some of these situations in the conversation.
Third - very important to me -, we have launched a completely new kind of cooperation with the Latin American and the Caribbean countries in the global framework. When you think of the [Paris] Climate Change Agreement, if you think of the Agenda 2030, if you think of the work that we can do together on human rights, there is a full potential that can be explored there. Together, we have an impact on global issues that would be impossible to imagine if we were not coordinating. It is somehow an easy coordination, because we tend to share the same principles, the same values and the same culture with countries that are very close to us, especially to us, Mediterraneans, I would say.
The Joint Communication focuses on four sectors to develop our partnership: prosperity, democracy, resilience, and effective global governance, with practical steps for each of these fields. I will not bore you with the details, also because the Communication is public. I guess that you have not only contributed to shape it, but that you have also read the results of it.
I want to underline only one thing that for me is very important: in all four sectors of partnership, that we indicate, there is a strong focus on working with civil society. We do that everywhere in the world, but I believe that, in Latin America in particular, the component of investment in empowerment of civil society is particularly vital. The paper suggests focusing on common interests that we have in this sector, such as citizen security, fighting corruption, the green economy, digital cooperation, education, innovation and, obviously – as I mentioned –, economic cooperation, trade and investment.
A last word from my side. We clearly have a difficulty to overcome our cooperation with Latin American and the Caribbean countries when it comes to the cooperation these countries have among themselves. We always support regional dynamics and regional fora in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is particularly challenging for political dynamics that you know perfectly well. I believe we have taken a wise, pragmatic and principled approach in these last years working with them, in finding ways to avoid that this difficulty blocks our inter-continental cooperation.
Therefore, we are ready to engage with every sub-regional format that is interesting to us, from the Pacific Alliance to the Mercosur [Mercado Común del Sur] and with direct contacts to single countries, like Mexico or Chile – or I think of the work that we have done with the Caribbean on Post-Cotounou, for example. So we do not get stuck on the difficulties that Latin America and the Caribbean have in managing their own regional dynamics, but we are more than happy, and more than ready, to engage with the continent as a whole, if the conditions are there.
Let me conclude by saying that I hope that this communication can be the basis for a very strong investment of the next European Parliament, the next European Commission and the next High Representative, and the Council to continue in the years to come to invest at least as much as we have in these last five years in our cooperation and partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-171696