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08/12/2016

EU, Latin American-Caribbean group seek common ground

Development Policy

EU, Latin American-Caribbean group seek common ground

CELAC flags [European Council]

Leaders of the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, known as CELAC, came together here yesterday (10 June) for a 2-day summit intended to foster a consensus on facing current global challenges.

“We want to strengthen the bonds of our enduring association, based on common objectives and mutual respect,” European Council President Donald Tusk said during the opening session in Brussels, attended by delegations from 61 countries.

“On both sides of the Atlantic, we believe in the primacy of international law, democracy and the self-determination of peoples,” the summit co-chair, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, said.

CELAC and the EU should focus over the next five years on battling poverty and inequality, promoting education, science and technology, addressing climate change and other environmental issues, financing development and maximizing the potential of the two regional organizations as an international bloc, Correa said.

“The eradication of poverty is a moral imperative for the planet,” he said.

Free-trade agreements are also a major topic at the summit, though talks between the EU and Mercosur – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela – remain stalled.

“Brazil and Mercosur are in a position to present their trade offer to the EU in the coming days or months,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said.

Despite the emphasis on the strategic partnership between the EU and CELAC, Wednesday’s session also made room for discussion of issues such as the budding Western rapprochement with Cuba, the peace process in Colombia, and the charged political situation in Venezuela.

Regarding Colombia, Tusk announced the creation of an EU fund to support post-conflict initiatives once the government and leftist FARC rebels reach an accord.

On the subject of Cuba, the former Polish prime minister said that the EU is committed to successfully concluding negotiations with Havana on a political agreement and that the European bloc hopes the see the “total normalization” of US-Cuban relations and the end of Washington’s economic embargo against the island.

“We celebrate the triumph of the dignity and sovereignty of the Cuban people and the process of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba,” Correa said, while urging Washington to scrap the “inhumane and illegal” embargo and abandon its military enclave in Guantanamo.

Turning to Venezuela, Ecuador’s leader blasted President Barack Obama’s executive order proclaiming that the situation in the Andean nation poses a threat to US national security.

That proclamation, which Washington has sought to minimize as a legal formality required to impose sanctions on individual Venezuelan officials accused of violating human rights, provoked both ridicule and outrage across Latin America.

In the Brussels Declaration that will be issued at the conclusion of the summit, the statement on Venezuela is limited to a “general reference” about the need to comply with international law and a pledge by the Europeans to “take note” of CELAC’s position, EU sources told EFE.

Background

The EU will hold a high level summit with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on 10 and 11 June under the theme “Shaping our common future: working for prosperous, cohesive and sustainable societies for our citizens”. The summit, which brings together European, Latin American and Caribbean leaders, is the main forum for dialogue and cooperation between the two regions. 61 Heads of State or Government from CELAC and EU Member States are expected to attend.

The Community of Latin America and Caribbean States – CELAC – is the regional bloc of Latin American and Caribbean States. It encompasses all 33 sovereign Latin American and Caribbean countries, representing roughly 600 million people.

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