The year 2023 has been especially relevant for the relations between Latin America, the Caribbean, and the European Union. At the beginning of the year, the III EU-CELAC Summit was seen as an unprecedented opportunity in the last eight years to revitalise and recalibrate the dynamics between two regions united by a historical legacy and destined to collaborate in an increasingly multipolar global context facing several crises. The meeting of heads of state and government, held on 17 and 18 July in Brussels, met the expectations placed on it.

The success of the meeting was evident in the notable attendance of 48 regional leaders and the presidencies of the EU and CELAC. Moreover, it was embodied in a Joint Declaration that expressed the willingness to advance towards more sustainable, digitalised, and equitable societies, using tools like the EU-LAC Global Gateway Investment Agenda to achieve these ends. Of particular relevance was the establishment of new commitments to strengthen the political relationship, including biennial high-level meetings and an inter-summit follow-up mechanism.

However, as I have reaffirmed throughout the year, we are at a starting point, not a culmination. It is now imperative to nurture the existing bi-regional relationship not only with mutual and loyal commitment but also with the establishment of a stable and honest collaboration framework. Shared values and interests and strong economic, social, and cultural ties are fundamental for a robust bi-regional relationship, but they are not enough.
The environmental, digital, and social transition can only be achieved if we are capable of jointly adopting the specific objectives and initiatives that both regions need. This requires recognising existing asymmetries, for example, in the responsibility for emissions, in the necessary and available raw materials, and in strengthening public systems to address inequalities. From this recognition, we must agree on common goals and provide the necessary tools for their achievement.

To overcome these challenges, we need cooperation instruments that allow us to weave alliances, find shared solutions, and continue exchanging experiences that drive our progress. It is essential to create dynamic and attractive spaces for the diverse actors of bi-regional links. Deepening the relationship implies uniting societies, cultural and academic sectors, civil society organizations, women's alliances, indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, migrant populations, and other groups. It is vital to promote broad and diverse citizen participation and focus on the most vulnerable.

In this sense, the EU-LAC Foundation centred its efforts in 2023 on forging connections and linkage spaces between actors from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe; and, simultaneously, on promoting the exchange between civil societies and governmental and local authorities of both regions. The Foundation organised various thematic forums that generated valuable inputs to enrich the high-level authorities' discussion agenda. Participants in these events identified and shared recommendations and key actions for the adoption of common lines of initiatives, programmes, and public policies that help articulate the ties between the EU and LAC. In this context, the EU-LAC Foundation promoted a new perspective on the interests and needs of both regions (and sub-regions) and advocated for more equitable cooperation mechanisms.

Thus, the work of the EU-LAC Foundation in the first half of the year was dedicated to supporting and disseminating the Summit from the outset of the initiative and accompanying its realisation. On the other hand, the second half of 2023 focused on communicating and following up on the priorities and commitments established in the Summit Declaration, as well as on the critical analysis of the opportunities and limitations of the agreements reached and the formulation of mechanisms for their effective implementation.

The meeting of heads of state and government marks a new dimension in the intensity of the relationship between Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe and, therefore, outlines a new horizon for the activities of the Foundation. The Declaration resulting from the Summit opens an opportunity for the launch of new initiatives and for the continuity of those linked to a shared vision of development, the specific nature of the bi-regional link, and the affirmation of a multilateral approach to the main problems and challenges of the contemporary world. The Foundation's priorities, in strategic terms, align with those enunciated at the Summit, adjusted to the organisation's capacity to disseminate, promote, and generate specific dialogues and analyses around these policies.

At the EU-LAC Foundation, we propose to capitalise on the networks we have already woven and turn them into spaces of effective, tangible, and innovative cooperation. Our goal is also to find and develop spaces between Summits that allow us to follow up on the Declaration and the EU-CELAC 2023-2025 Roadmap, materialise the commitments made, and continue strengthening this relationship, which is honest and solid, to advance the equitable, dignified, and sustainable development of our societies.

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