On 3 and 4 April 2023, the EU-LAC Foundation and the Carolina Foundation convened around 65 representatives of European, Latin American and Caribbean research centres and high-level political authorities for a dialogue entitled 'Perspectives and proposals for renewing the strategic partnership between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean'. The face-to-face meeting was held at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation in Madrid, in view of the EU-CELAC Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held on 17-18 July 2023 in Brussels.
The meeting was attended by the leaders of foreign policy of the EU and CELAC (PPT), Josep Borrell - High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Keisal Melissa Peters - Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and President of CELAC.
The dialogue was also joined by José Manuel Albares - Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Spain, Juan Fernández Trigo - Spanish Secretary of State for Ibero-America and the Caribbean, and Javier López - Co-President of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, Member of the European Parliament. Ambassador Teppo Tauriainen - Swedish Ambassador to Spain, represented the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the meeting.
During the inaugural dialogue moderated by María Fernanda Espinosa, former President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Minister Keisal Melissa Peters highlighted CELAC’s priorities in view of the EU-CELAC Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled to take place in July 2023: climate change, gender equality, research and scientific innovation through better quality education. She also recalled the importance of strengthening regional coordination and integration mechanisms, including the Caribbean, in cooperation projects and narratives.
HR/VP Josep Borrell proposed 'Europeanising' relations with LAC, by inviting those EU states that have usually been involved to a lesser degree in cooperation with LAC to take on a more active role and contribute ideas to this phase of revitalisation of bi-regional cooperation. At the same time, he pointed to Spain's role as a catalyst' acting as a link in these bi-regional relations.
Further on, the dialogue was structured around four thematic sessions focusing on (1) the contributions of EU and LAC research centres to the analysis on the EU-CELAC Bi-regional Strategic Partnership, (2) shared principles and priorities of EU and CELAC in addressing global challenges and strengthening multilateralism in the current strategic context, (3) social, economic, digital, and green transitions, and (4) democracy, human rights and social cohesion.
Many participants agreed in that the upcoming EU-CELAC Summit should be seen as an opportunity to make progress on the bi-regional agenda, underlining the double challenge of negotiating and designing a compact and manageable agenda with minimum common denominators on the one hand and securing a follow-up-process with concrete policy outcomes that could be measured and would have an impact in societies in both regions on the other hand.
In this regard, research centers understand their role as “translators” in multiple directions: In their teaching and outreach activities, they help explaining the undergoing social, political, economic and environmental dynamics. By involving voices from civil society groups (social movements, trade unions, women, youth, indigenous peoples, among others) in their research projects and analyses, in turn, they shift visibility to these groups’ needs and perspectives, thereby enriching and constructing a more inclusive and comprehensive bi-regional agenda.
Participants also addressed the structural inequalities and vulnerabilities which were deepened by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the transformations of the international order created by the war in Ukraine. A recurring issue in the dialogues were the marked asymmetries between the different actors that form part of the bi-regional partnership, as well as the particular needs and perspectives in the sub-regions that are expressed in different interests.
In this respect, Adrián Bonilla, Executive Director of the EU-LAC Foundation, his concluding remarks, stressed, that, with a view to the Summit, the challenge would be to seek to intersect those denominators that are shared between the actors at both sides of the Atlantic and to convert them into concrete agreements.
With this meeting, the EU-LAC Foundation concluded a cycle of meetings held in Berlin, Germany, on 28 and 29 April 2022, with representatives of research centres and research associations based in the member states of the European Union (EU), in cooperation with the Ibero-American Institute (IAI) and the GIGA - Institute of Latin American Studies (GIGA-ILAS), as well as in Quito, Ecuador, on 12-13 December 2022, convening research centres and study associations based in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), in cooperation with the Centre for European Studies of the University San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).