Four years after having been appointed by the Board of Governors together with the Executive Director, Jorge Valdez, in April 2011, in Santiago de Chile, to represent the Foundation as your President, the time has come to hand over my responsibilities to a new President from 1st January 2016 onwards.
I enjoyed this pro-bono function since I have always felt the proximity of Latin America and EU throughout all my previous political functions, as they indeed have much in common and in principle share the same culture, in part language, democracy, human dignity and rule of law although today we will have to deepen our dialogue regarding our way forward as Occident or “post-occidental” society. As former Commissioner of External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy and having assisted at every EU-LAC summit held until now, I became aware that a Summit Meeting at the level of Heads of State, and Government is important to set out the strategy for the next two years and provide the guidelines; but, civil society has to be more involved. Therefore, I supported the idea of the Foundation when it arose until its creation.
In these last years the paradigm changes in our globalised world and the events that occurred, have not halted before our relationship: whereas Europe had been particularly affected by the financial and economic crisis and is slowly surging from it, Latin America has shown much more resilience. This resilience was due to reforms that began two decades ago as a consequence of former crisis-situations, and the rising demand of the Asian economies, particularly the Chinese, thus increasing prices of raw materials, Latin America lived nearly the term a “golden decade“.
This has brought our relationship to a “real partnership”. Of course I am aware that particularly the Caribbean Countries more fragile than others also suffered from the difficult global economic environment.
Under these not easy circumstances the Foundation developed the 4 important programmes that you know and that are well described in the “First Memoire” of the Executive Director, Jorge Valdez.
When we started, I did it with great enthusiasm that has now- after the four years of my tenure- turned into realism: under the described circumstances and with the funding provided to the Foundation, not all my dreams could be fulfilled, but the organisation today is a solid one and has laid the basis to further develop a modernised partnership. I would have liked to visit personally all of you to talk to your authorities, listen to their concerns and expectations and convince them of my conviction that the Foundation is a valuable tool. But without the necessary funds for travelling, my trips were very restricted. Or we would have liked to organise several bigger conferences, for example one on infrastructure in the Caribbean basin, but our financial resources did not permit it.
On the positive side, I am happy that the Foundation will be an International Organisation, what we have been calling for since years, and I hope that the ratification process will be quick. I also think that the political dialogue that was now institutionalised at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs is a great step forward as it puts emphasis on the political dialogue between the EU and CELAC countries and it is necessary to focus on multilateral issues on global governance, and on cooperation issues in that are important to all of you.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you, the EEAS, the European Commission and all the countries around the table for supporting the Foundation as well as the European Parliament and the co-presidents of EuroLat. I would particularly like to underline my personal gratitude to the Executive Director, Jorge Valdez, and his small team for the dedication and outstanding work they have fulfilled.
Wishing my successor and the new Executive Director all the best, for the future I hope to see you from time to time. I am convinced that this world needs more than ever our strategic renewed partnership.