Leaders from the European Union (EU) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) met virtually on 2 December 2021. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, chaired the meeting, representing the EU alongside President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell also took part in the meeting. The Heads of State/Government of 7 LAC countries, holding the presidencies of regional and sub-regional organisations in 2021(1), participated in the meeting.
President Michel said: “Today’s Leaders’ Meeting is an important step to relaunch the dialogue between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean at the highest level, after a 6-year hiatus. We hope it will also be a stepping-stone towards a fully-fledged bi-regional Summit as soon as conditions allow. More than ever, our strategic association is one of geopolitical relevance: together, EU and LAC account for nearly a third of UN membership and seven members of the G20. We can therefore have a decisive role in shaping the multilateral agenda and in addressing key global challenges such as COVID-19, sustainable development and climate change.”
President von der Leyen said: “Our regions are vital partners. We share culture and values, we are supporters of multilateralism, and we connect through trade and investment. Building on these ties the EU is ready work together with Latin America and the Caribbean for a sustainable, digital and socially inclusive recovery. The Global Gateway Strategy, that we just launched, can take this partnership forward. It is a template how Europe can build more resilient connections with partners around the world. During the corona pandemic, the EU and its Member States have proved their solidarity. We have supported countries in the region with vaccines to address urgent health care needs as well as funding to tackle the socio-economic consequences, particularly among the most vulnerable groups. We must now work together for a long-term response to the crisis.”
Building on the EU-LAC Informal Ministerial Meeting held in Berlin on 14 December 2020, Leaders held discussions on the theme of ‘Joining Forces for a Sustainable post-COVID Recovery’.
During this meeting, EU leaders:
- Reiterated their readiness to step up cooperation to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Working as Team Europe together with Member States, the EU has already provided €3 billion in immediate health support to LAC. The EU has exported more than 130 million vaccine doses to LAC countries. It is a leading contributor to COVAX, which has delivered more than 50 million doses to the region. Furthermore, EU Member States have donated another 10 million doses to almost half of LAC countries. The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide a loan to Argentina of around €85 million to finance resilience and pandemic preparedness initiatives as well as to support the purchase of vaccines. The EU is ready to explore possibilities to support the production and distribution of vaccines in the region.
- Pointed out the need to improve future health preparedness,. The EU is ready to support regional initiatives such as the UN ECLAC Plan for self-sufficiency in health matters in LAC, endorsed at the recent Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the ongoing efforts of the Pan American Health Organisation. The EU also recalled the importance of a multilateral response and invited LAC partners to support the work on a new international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
- Announced that €3.4 billion will be made available under NDICI-Global Europe (2021-2027) for LAC in support of a sustainable long-term recovery from the pandemic. The European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+) will be a novel part of this programme and aims to leverage more than €12 billion of public and private investment in the region. At least €800 million will be reserved to support the Caribbean and the implementation of the Post-Cotonou agreement.
- Stressed that fighting climate change and the loss of biodiversity must be a top priority for both regions. The EU is preparing a Team Europe Initiative to support efforts to halt deforestation in the Amazon. The EU recalled its €1 billion contribution to the Global Forests Finance Pledge announced in Glasgow, a 5-year support package to help partners worldwide protect, restore and sustainably manage forests. A new edition of the EUROCLIMA+ programme will support LAC partners with €140 million to achieve their commitments under the Paris Agreement. The EU offered to strengthen cooperation to support climate adaptation.
- Looked forward to launching an EU-LAC Digital Alliance in 2022 to foster human-centric digitalisation in partnership by advancing convergence in rules and standards and promoting digital innovation. The Alliance will build on the recent deployment of a transatlantic fibre optic cable (EllaLink) between the EU and LAC which should soon be extended to other LAC countries. This infrastructure development is supported by the EU through the BELLA programme.
- Following the launch on 1 December 2021 of the Global Gateway, the EU’s connectivity strategy, the EU will engage with LAC countries to jointly identify other viable projects, such as developing the potential of green hydrogen and creating sustainable raw materials value chains with the LAC region.
- Encouraged making full use of the vast network of trade and association agreements between both regions as a motor for economic recovery, job creation, and business and investment opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Highlighted that no lasting recovery can be achieved without respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, with particular attention to be given to vulnerable groups and promoting the empowerment of women and girls. They referred to a new regional Team Europe Initiative on Security and Justice to support bi-regional cooperation on citizen security, organised crime and the rule of law.
- Discussed cooperation to tackle rising inequalities and to promote social cohesion. The EU announced the launching of a new Team Europe Initiative in 2022 that will focus on addressing structural challenges, such as building resilient social protection systems, reshaping fiscal policies and promoting inclusive public policy design.
- Referred to the 2021-2023 EU-CELAC Strategic Roadmap on Science, Technology and Innovation as an opportunity to deepen research collaboration on the common challenges facing the regions.
- Congratulated the EU-LAC Foundation on its 10th anniversary and underscored that the Foundation is a valuable tool to support the bi-regional partnership, deepening mutual knowledge by bringing together civil society and other stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic. They welcomed the active parliamentary diplomacy between the regions, in particular the work of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly.
- Welcomed the publication of the Latin American Economic Outlook “Working Together for a Better Recovery” (LEO 2021), prepared by OECD, the UN Economic Commission for LAC and the Development Bank for Latin America (CAF), with support from the European Commission.
(1) Brazil (pro-tempore presidency of Mercosur 2nd half 2021), Colombia (pro-tempore presidency Pacific Alliance 2021; Andean Community 1st half 2021 and Prosur 2021), Costa Rica (pro-tempore presidency SICA 1st half 2021), Ecuador (pro-tempore presidency Andean Community 2nd half 2021), Guatemala (pro-tempore presidency SICA 2nd half 2021), Mexico (pro-tempore presidency CELAC 2020-2021), Suriname (pro-tempore chair CARIFORUM 1st half 2021).