EU-Latin America Relations: Charting a course for the future

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EU-Latin America Relations: Charting a course for the future


elations between Latin America and the European Union have a long history but global challenges mean that the two regions must find new ways of cooperation, according to participants in the EU-Latin America Policy Summit, co-organised on 4 June by Friends of Europe and Konrad Adenaur Stiftung.

“The stock of EU investment in Brazil is bigger than EU investment in Russia and China together, and there is a long-standing relationship to build on,” said Christian Leffler, Managing Director for the Americas at the European External Action Service. “Latin American countries are now largely dynamic democracies. All this has allowed a strengthening of ties, but a lot has happened under the radar.”

He said it was time to reinvigorate relations through dialogue on politics and accountable societies; on social inclusion; and on economic and trade relations, topics which will be discussed at official summit talks on June 10-11 between the EU and the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

One area where both regions are active in is climate change. The EU agreed last year to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In May, Mexico became the first big emerging economy to announce its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) ahead of the UN climate talks scheduled for Paris later this year. It said it would begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2026, after which Mexican emissions would become decoupled from economic growth.

“It was a difficult thing to do, as we are an oil-producing country. But we announced a decoupling between growth and emissions by 2026 and full decarbonisation by 2060,” said Roberto Dondisch Glowinski, Director General for global Issues at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “There is no bigger threat than climate change, but it is one of those things that happens bit by bit. So you might not want to realise it because the medicine you need is quite harsh.”

Many Latin Americans are attracted to the European-style social market economy. But Latin America still faces a number of challenges before it can attempt its own version of this model.

Juan Luis Bour, Director and Chief Economist at the Fundación de Investigaciones Económicas Latinoamericanas in Argentina, said that the first condition for a social market economy was a stable macro-economy.

“How far are we from preconditions of having a successful economy?” he asked. “In Argentina 45% of the economy is informal. When you have gone this far, you have a long way to get back to normality – to make the economy work and to have sustained growth over time”


EU-Latin America relations 2015

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / FLICKR – ancient history



Registration of participants
SESSION I - EU-Latin America: Adapting to a changing geopolitical landscape
Expand SESSION I - EU-Latin America: Adapting to a changing geopolitical landscape

This month’s EU-CELAC summit takes place against a new geopolitical context, with Europe’s relevance in Latin America challenged not only by the region’s traditional links with the United States but also by growing relations with emerging actors, including China. The recent rapprochement between the United States and Cuba will also have wider implications for the region and for EU-Latin American relations. The EU has an association agreement with the Central American countries and free trade agreements with each member of the Pacific Alliance. However, the EU and Mercosur have still not been able to negotiate an association agreement while bilateral relations with some Latin American countries are deteriorating over political choices. How can the EU strengthen its engagement with Latin America and create synergies with different and sometimes competing regional integration initiatives? Are there ways in which EU-Latin America relations are special and unique? Is the EU being challenged in Latin America by other global actors like China, and how? What is the impact of emerging Latin powers like Chile and Colombia? How can the EU’s strategic partnerships with Brazil and Mexico be used to enhance interregional cooperation? How can the EU’s strategic partnerships with Brazil and Mexico be used to enhance interregional cooperation?


Christian Leffler

Managing Director for Americas, European External Action Service (EEAS)

Oswaldo Biato Jr.

Director, Europe Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brazil

António López-Istúriz White

Secretary General of the European People’s Party and Member of the European Parliament

Eduardo Fidel Pastrana Buelvas

Director, International Relations Department, Pontifical Xavierian University, Colombia

Elio Rodrìguez Perdomo

Director of the European and Canada division at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Moderated by

Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project

Giles Merritt

Founder of Friends of Europe

Coffee break
SESSION II - Enhancing EU-Latin America connectivity
Expand SESSION II - Enhancing EU-Latin America connectivity

The EU and Latin America benefit from historical links of friendship and shared values. But the full potential of their relations has not been fulfilled because of political constraints. The EU-CELAC Action Plan 2013-2015 agreed in Santiago de Chile envisaged bilateral efforts to increase comprehensive bilateral cooperation in eight areas. As such, the EU-CELAC summit in June presents a good opportunity to assess results of the past two years and reflect on strategies to enhance connectivity between Latin America and the EU. Can EU-Latin American relations be further strengthened through contacts between the two regions’ civil societies? What are the challenges and opportunities as regards increased trade and investment flows? Can the European Parliament play an active role in encouraging inter-regional ties? How might the two regions intensify their socio-cultural links by investing in human capital and social inclusion?


Teresa Jiménez Becerril-Barrio

MEP, Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to the EU-Mexico Joint Parliamentary Committee and member of the Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly

Juan Luis Bour

Director and Chief Economist of the Fundación de Investigaciones Económicas Latinoamericanas (FIEL) in Argentina

Nicola Harrington

Deputy Director, OECD Development Centre

Mario Cimoli

Chief of the Division of Production, Productivity and Management at the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

Moderated by

Olaf Jacob

Acting Director, Latin America Department, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

Lunch Break
SESSION III - Tackling global challenges
Expand SESSION III - Tackling global challenges

The EU and Latin America can and should work more closely together to tackle global 21st Century challenges. In particular, they should seek to promote common positions on four major contemporary topics on the global agenda: the post-2015 development agenda, global climate negotiations, the Colombian peace process and the world drug problem. To what extent can enhanced cooperation based on shared values be translated into joint action and the consolidation of effective multilateralism? How can the two regions increase their convergence on global strategic issues? Can the EU and Latin America work together in the context of negotiations of the post-2015 agenda and of the UNFCCC process to unlock a global climate deal? What can be done to improve cooperation to counter drug trafficking and achieve sustainable peace in Colombia?


Peteris Ustubs

Senior expert at the Cabinet of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini

Peter Wehrheim

Head of Unit for Climate Finance and Deforestation, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission

Roberto Dondisch Glowinski

Director General for Global Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico and Mexico's lead negotiator to the U.N. climate talks

Daniel Luz i Alvarez

Citizen Security Advisor, Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Panama

Ernesto Cortés

Executive Director, The Costarrican Association for the Study and Intervention in Drugs (ACEID), Costa Rica

Moderated by

Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project



Giles Merritt
Giles Merritt

Founder of Friends of Europe

Show more information on Giles Merritt

Giles Merritt is the Founder of Friends of Europe, and was its Secretary General between 1999 and 2015, and its Chairman between 2016 and 2020.

A former Financial Times Brussels Correspondent, Giles Merritt is a journalist, author and broadcaster who has for over four decades specialised in European public policy questions. In 2010 he was named by the Financial Times as one of its 30 most influential “Eurostars”, together with the European Commission’s President and NATO’s Secretary General.

Giles Merritt joined the Financial Times in 1968, and from 1972 until 1983 he was successively FT correspondent in Paris, Dublin/Belfast, and Brussels. From 1984 to 2010 he was a columnist for the International Herald Tribune (IHT), where his Op-Ed page articles ranged widely across EU political and economic issues.

In 1982 he published “World Out of Work”, an award-winning study of unemployment in industrialised countries. In 1991, his second book “The Challenge of Freedom” about the difficulties facing post-communist Eastern Europe was published in four languages. His book “Slippery Slope: Europe’s Troubled Future” (Oxford University Press 2016), was shortlisted for the European Book Prize.

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