On April 29, the EU-LAC Foundation participated in the meeting of the External Relations Section (REX) of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), through Ernesto Jeger, Senior Programme Manager - Sustainable Development and Economic Affairs, where the Report of the Study Group on the economic situation of Latin America in the context of the COVID-19 crisis was presented, and the role of civil society in the recovery was discussed. This report shows how in recent years the region has experienced a progressive economic slowdown after the end of the expansionary cycle of raw materials, and after the coronavirus crisis, structural problems and development traps have been exacerbated.
Representatives of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Véronique Lorenzo, and of the Directorate General for Trade, J. Bazill, participated in the debate. The EU-LAC Foundation was able to influence the report by referring to the Working Document on the EU Multiparty Agreement (Peru, Colombia and Ecuador) that was published together with the Carolina Foundation.
In Mr Jeger's speech, several interesting reflections on the subject were presented for discussion. First, he raised the need to reinforce the importance of indebtedness in the region, suggesting that debt relief is a priority. The demographic challenge, related to the social vulnerability trap mentioned in the report, was also discussed. On the other hand, Mr Jeger mentioned the Trust report of the Ibero-American Development Bank, which talks about how low trust weakens social cohesion and contributes to the levels of reluctance of civil society and companies to comply with laws, pay taxes or follow regulations, especially in contexts of idiosyncratic risk, being a factor that hinders the allocation of investments. Fourthly, the context of the conflict in Ukraine was raised as a scenario that already raises questions about the medium and long-term implications for a region sensitive to commodity growth, such as Latin America. In turn, in view of the weakening of multilateralism and the inefficiency of current cooperation models, the need to promote new alliances and cooperation schemes to mobilize financing and capacities to respond to global challenges and comply with the 2030 Agenda, and continue promoting bi-regional and intra-regional dialogue, was raised. Finally, Mr Jeger stated that cooperation and technical assistance are key elements for the Partnership and Trade Agreements signed with Latin America and the Caribbean, and the need to address the issue of digital transformation from a social perspective, taking into account the persistent access gaps.
Following this discussion, the chairman of the session, Ákos Topolánszky, as well as the representative of the Directorate-General for Trade, Mr Bazill, and the rapporteur of the report, Josep Puxeu Rocamora, acknowledged and considered the studies on partnership agreements to be very timely and would like references to the others that are being published.
The next steps will be the approval of the project by the REX Section on June 9, followed by the final approval of the information document by the EESC plenary session on July 13 and 14.