STRONG, DEEP, inalienable: there are no better words to describe the relationship between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean. We saw it clearly once again on Monday and yesterday when the foreign ministers from the 28 countries of the European Union and the 33 of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States met in Brussels to invest in the partnership between our two continents.
Though far apart geographically, Europe and Latin America are closer than any other continents. We stand on the same side. We believe that international disputes should only be addressed through diplomacy and international cooperation. We believe in the United Nations as the centre of gravity of the international system. We believe that a globalised world can only be governed together – building partnerships to address our shared interests, from sustainable development to climate action.
Today, the cooperative world order we believe in is being questioned: the UN system has come under attack, there is a threat of new trade wars, and the most basic rules of our international system are violated.
Our democracies are also facing challenges that are similar in our two continents – more similar than many of us realise. Latin America and the Caribbean is the only part of the world where inequalities have constantly decreased since the beginning of this century, but it remains the world’s most unequal region.
There is a growing demand for good jobs, better education, and good governance to deliver on our people’s rising expectations. Many of these requests are the same that European people are also raising to their governments. Our democracies have a duty to listen to this call.
Cooperation between our continents has a huge potential to address these issues: for instance, we are launching a European facility to support development in transition in Latin America and the Caribbean – moving beyond the old donor-recipient mentality towards a partnership among equals, in cooperation with the OECD and the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
A stronger partnership can help us protect our citizens’ interests, create new opportunities for economic and human growth, and advance a more cooperative world order.
At our meeting in Brussels, we have discussed first and foremost our common global agenda: how to continue turning into reality the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate, which we built together in years of coordinated work.
We have also explored new opportunities linked to our economic cooperation. Millions of people from our continents live and work across the Atlantic. The European Union is the top foreign investor in Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for one-third of overall investment in the region. We are now raising by 400 million euros the European Investment Bank’s engagement in your continent.
Our trade agreements have not only brought economic benefits to our firms: they have also guaranteed our traditional products, raised standards for workers and protected our environment. We want our trade to be free and fair at the same time.
We are now modernising our trade and political agreements with Mexico, Chile and Mercosur: we want to expand their benefits to a larger number of people, and particularly to small and medium enterprises, but also to cooperate more on energy and infrastructure projects, on culture and creative sectors, on research and education – including through our Erasmus+ programme.
We have opened an entirely new phase in our relations with Cuba, based on frank dialogue and effective cooperation to the benefit of all our people.
Our partnership is also one for peace and security. In recent years, the European Union has mobilised unprecedented support to accompany the peace process in Colombia – helping with rural development, reconciliation and the reintegration of former fighters. We will continue to support dialogue towards negotiated political solutions to the crises in Nicaragua and Venezuela. And we are now mobilising a new package in support of Venezuelan refugees across the region. When Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean, we immediately sent support – from humanitarian aid to satellite imagery to help the rescue teams.
We know from our European experience that regional integration is a powerful engine for growth, peace and security. Cooperation within Latin America and the Caribbean is proving particularly vital, and we look at it with interest and hope. It is only natural to create new bridges between the European Union and regional cooperation projects such as Mercosur or the Pacific Alliance.
In a world where multilateralism and international cooperation are under pressure, we are showing the value of partnership – inside and between our continents. It is a partnership for jobs and social justice, for inclusive democracies and human rights, for peace and security. It is an antidote to the current global confusion, towards a more just and cooperative world order.
Federica Mogherini is the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice-president of the European Commission