The European Union and Latin America: Renewing the Partnership after Drifting Apart
In a press conference in Buenos Aires in October 2022, Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, declared that 2023 must be the year of Latin America in Europe and of Europe in Latin America. There is renewed European interest in Latin America as a strategic partner, but many Latin American governments prefer an active non-alignment in international politics.
The Spanish EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2023 will open a window of opportunity for deepening EU–Latin American and the Caribbean relations. A summit between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the first since 2015, is planned to be held from 17–18 July 2023 in Brussels.
As the EU is pursuing open strategic autonomy, Latin America is perceived as a possible strategic partner supportive of its agenda in international politics. Strategically important raw materials are imported from Latin America, and the latter’s countries have the potential to become important producers and exporters of green hydrogen.
While Europe has lost ground as a trading partner with Latin America to China, European companies are still a leading investor in the region, and Europe has still soft power or power of attraction in Latin America.
The results of the recent elections in Latin America, especially the victory of Lula da Silva in Brazil, open new possibilities for EU cooperation with the region. It will be easier to find common positions on climate change and the protection of the Amazon rainforest.
But Latin American governments will demand more protection for their domestic industries in free trade agreements and expect more European funding for measures against climate change and for environmental protection, and they will not automatically support European positions in international politics.
If the EU wants to win over Latin America as a strategic partner, it must also act strategically. The signing of the association agreement with Mercosur should take highest priority, even in the face of resistance from within Europe. The upcoming EU-CELAC summit offers an opportunity to adopt a new agenda of bi-regional cooperation.
Read the full text published as GIGA Focus Lateinamerika here.
This text was first published as GIGA Focus Lateinamerika No. 2 in January 2023 here.