EU and LAC Partnership: The Regulatory Framework

COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 43

The European Union (EU) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have established a solid and strategic partnership. They are natural partners linked by strong historical, cultural and economic ties. They cooperate closely at the international level and maintain an intensive political dialogue at all levels.

These historical and cultural connections have resulted in a Strategic Partnership between the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). This is a political process between the governments of both regions to deepen their relations and develop a joint global vision. The partnership’s objective is to promote options for a socio-economic model where knowledge transfer, education and sustainable development bring countries and regions closer together while reducing poverty levels and social exclusion, creating opportunities for all.

The Partnership was first launched in June 1999 at the First EU-LAC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since then, there is an extensive set of guidelines composed of strategic and policy documents which testify this strategic partnership.

The European Parliament passed a comprehensive resolution on the political relations between the EU and Latin America in September 2017. It was followed by the foundational Joint Communication from the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in April 2019 on the future of the EU’s relations with LAC. The Council of Ministers adopted conclusions on the EU-LAC relations in May 2019 in response to the Joint Communication. Just recently, in 2020, the Policy Department, Directorate-General for External Policies has issued an in depth analysis entitled “The EU and Latin America and the Caribbean: towards a stronger partnership?”. This document presents the main points and the basic ideas of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Council of Ministers on the future of EU-LAC relations. On the basis of this regulatory framework, the EU institutions and the Member States set out their vision on the direction the relationship between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean should take in the coming years.

Furthermore, the EU has signed association, free trade or political and cooperation agreements with 27 of the 33 LAC countries. The most important of these are the Association Agreements with Mexico, Chile and Central America, the Economic Partnership Agreement with the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. The EU and LAC countries often align in the United Nations and have closely cooperated on the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 2015).

At operative level, the EU-LAC partnership can be visible in different aspects of citizens’ lives. Here are listed a few stories where EU-LAC cooperation had a positive impact: European Union External Action Service (EEAS) activities in LAC.

A strong relationship between Europe and Latin America is now more important than ever. The pandemic emerged at a critical time for the EU and for LAC countries especially given the political, economic, and social contexts these regions have experienced in recent times. However, the pandemic situation has strengthened this partnership and represents a critical test of resilience for these regions.

On April 8th, Josep Borrell, EU High Commissioner, launched a package of approximately €20 billion on a global level to support partner countries in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences. This large number is a result of the EU working together with joint efforts from the European Commission, the EAAS, the European Investment Bank, as well as its member states. For LAC countries the numbers are not fixed, but are rather in flux. The delegations from the EU are consequently calculating the need of every country in order to decide the amount of support every country would receive. These funds are being used for the emergency response to Covid-19 and, for the longer term, to boost health, water and sanitation systems and address the pandemic’s terrible socio-economic impact. Applying the ‘Team Europe’ approach, the EU has redirected around a thousand million euros to meet the basic needs of some of the countries in the region. 

As part of the EU’s global coronavirus response, an EU Humanitarian Air Bridge operation consisting of three flights to Lima, Peru has delivered a total of more than 4 tonnes of life-saving materials to humanitarian organizations active in the country.

A recent testimony of this cooperation was the informal virtual meeting on 14 December 2020 among Foreign ministers from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss the future direction of the strategic partnership. The varied issues for discussion included how to secure a post-Covid recovery that delivers a greener, fairer and more sustainable future for all. The meeting also underlined the commitment to the long-standing partnership, based on common interests and shared values, including democracy, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law. The meeting was hosted by Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas and chaired by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

By Ginevra Peruginelli, Sara Conti, Chiara Fioravanti (IGSG-CNR, Italy)

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