LATIN AMERICA: PARTNERSHIP WITH THE EUCOMMISSION
Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Douglas
Alexander MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated
19 January 2006 which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting
on 2 February. The Sub-Committee agreed to hold the document under
The Explanatory Memorandum is wholly inadequate
in its analysis of the policy implications of the document. Merely
stating that you welcome the Commission decision to update the
Strategy does not enable us to perform satisfactory parliamentary
scrutiny of the document nor, in particular, the Government's
We would like to know whether you agree with
the Commission's proposals to build a stronger partnership with
Latin America and how you propose to take this issue forward in
Council. Although you state in paragraph 11 of the Explanatory
Memorandum that you have "commented that it will be important
to ensure that the EU's dialogues with the region are focused
and help build a stronger partnership" there is no indication
of where this earlier commentary appears. More detailed commentary
such as this ought to have been contained with the explanatory
We also wish to raise a number of substantive
points arising out of the document.
Do you agree with the Commission's conclusion
(p 5) that "Some consideration ought to be given to joint
action to improve the political dialogue between the two regions
with a view to eventually expanding their world influence"?
How do you believe that the economic policies
of the governments of Bolivia and Venezuela will impact on the
relationship between the EU and Latin America?
The EU has supported Mercosur since its creation
in 1991. However, this Communication makes little reference to
relations with Mercosur, other than to treat it as another example
of sub-regional organisation. Does the document reflect a changing
relationship with Mercosur and, if not, how does that relationship
accord with the proposals made in the Communication?
The document states (p 6) that 44.4% of the
population live in poverty and that "these inequalities are
a contributory factor in undermining democracy and fragmenting
societies. They jeopardise growth and economic development."
Will this, and other challenges detailed in the document, be fully
taken into account in preparation for the next EU-Latin America
Summit in May 2006?
It has always been the case that the European
Union has tried to be even-handed in its relations with both SE
Asia and Latin America. Does this Commission Communication mark
a departure from this?
Finally, we would like some clarification over
the status of the document. To what extent will it be necessary
for the Council to endorse the Commission's proposals for increased
political dialogue, and what part will the High Representative,
Javier Solana, play in carrying out this dialogue?
3 February 2006
Letter from Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP
to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 3 February concerning
the Explanatory Memorandum on the Commission Communication on
Latin America dated 19 January. I am sorry that Sub-Committee
C found the memorandum inadequate. Now that the Commission has
formally presented the Communication to the GAERC, I am better
placed to comment. I hope that this letter, taken together with
the information already sent, will provide you with the clarification
that you seek.
Perhaps I should start by explaining the status
of this Communication and how we see it being taken forward over
the coming weeks.
The Communication is a Commission policy document,
which is presented to the European Council and Parliament. We
have an opportunity to contribute our views on the Communication
at the GAERC on 27 February, when the Council will agree conclusions.
The EU already has a strategic partnership with
Latin America. This Communication is essentially an update of
the Commission's last strategy paper on Latin America, produced
in 1995. The Commission's overall objective is twofold: to improve
dialogue and to make clear that Latin America matters to Europe
at a time when there is a perception in the region that the EU
has lost interest. A similar Communication on the Caribbean will
follow in the next few months. There is no umbilical link between
either Communication and the EU-Latin America Caribbean Summit
in Vienna in May 2006 (EU-LAC Summits take place every two to
three years). But it makes sense for the European Union to signal
its commitment to the region in the lead-up to the Summit.
Much of what is in the Commission Communication
is intended to improve on the existing arrangements; some of it
is new. But it is in general intended to give more substance to
the EU-LAC relationship. The main points are:
The EU has formal political dialogues
with relatively few countries in the region. It has, for example,
no dialogue with Brazil, the emerging regional power. The Commission
want to plug that gap and also intend to create sectoral dialogues
with Latin American countries on two key areas: on social cohesion
(at senior official level) and on the environment (at Ministerial
The Commission considers that current
political dialogues (eg the Rio Group) are not working very well:
agenda are too long and meetings are too declaratory. They intend
to try to focus these meetings to concentrate on a limited number
of topics in order to have a genuine dialogue. Javier Solana is
involved in existing dialogues and would presumably be involved
in any new dialogues.
The Commission want to promote a
more favourable climate for EU trade and investment by working
with Latin American countries to identify obstacles to foreign
investment and by promoting EU norms and standards.
The Commission have taken up a European
Parliament proposal to create a Euro-Latin America Transatlantic
Assembly (similar to those that already exist with ACP and EuroMed
countries) with the aim of promoting the democratic process in
a region where democratic institutions are weak.
The Commission are stepping up programmes
of higher education co-operation.
In addition, the Commission hope
that a decision will shortly be reached on a Latin America Facility
for the European Investment Bank, and that this can be presented
at the Vienna EU-LAC Summit.
We believe that the Commission's proposals to
build a stronger partnership with Latin America are positive.
We are generally satisfied that in this Communication the Commission
has focused on the most important challenges facing the region
today and identified the areas in which the EU's partnership with
Latin America can help to make a difference. The UK has commented
on the Communication during discussions at the EU-Latin America
Working Group and in the form of textual amendments to the draft
Council Conclusions. Our comments have focused on the following
we welcome more focused dialogue
and agree there is a case for creating new dialogues, especially
with major emerging powers like Brazil and on issues of critical
importance to the UK, EU and Latin America such as the environment,
but we should avoid where possible creating new burdensome structures;
all development co-operation must
be consistent with the principles and commitments contained in
the recently agreed Joint Council, Commission and European Parliament
Statement on the European Consensus on Development and the European
Community Development Policy Statement;
in line with the European Consensus
on Development, and in view of the pronounced levels of inequality
across Latin America, poverty eradication in the context of sustainable
development [including pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals]
must remain the primary and overarching objective of EU development
co-operation. Similarly community co-operation with Latin American
countries should have poverty eradication as its main objective.
You raised a number of other specific points
in your letter:
The economic policies pursued by the government
of Venezuela are based on President Chavez's "Bolivarian
revolution and 21st century socialism". There is high government
spending on social projects, principally funded by oil revenue.
The price of oil is crucial to the sustainability of this project.
The Venezuelan government has recently re-negotiated the contracts
it holds with the international energy companies operating in
the country. We understand that some negotiations are still going
on. It is therefore a little early to judge whether, and if so
to what extent, this will effect the participation of European
companies in Venezuela.
Venezuela is also reaching out economically
and politically within the region. It has started accession negotiations
to join Mercosur. It is unclear how long these negotiations will
last. The implications of Venezuelan membership of Mercosur on
EU-Mercosur relations is a subject that we continue to assess
within the EU. It should be noted that the EU also has regular
contact with the Andean Community, of which Venezuela is a member.
The direction that the new Bolivian government
will take on economic policy is not yet clear. It is likely that
President Morales' stated intention of "nationalising"
the country's hydrocarbons industry will have implications for
British, other EU and foreign investors, including Brazilian companies.
But it is too early to speculate exactly what form government
policies will take. Morales has made clear his wish to maintain
good relations with the EU, and his willingness to work with foreign
investors as "partners" not "owners" of Bolivia's
natural resources. His strong commitment to tackle poverty and
exclusion is welcome, and the EU has made clear its support for
Bolivia's efforts in these areas. It will be important for EU
donors to be supportive and open to dialogue with the new Government.
I do not think that the Communication reflects
a changing relationship with Mercosur, which is mentioned in several
sections of the paper (eg "Creating a climate favourable
to trade and investment", "Contributing together to
stability and prosperity" and "Co-operating more effectively
and increased mutual understanding"), as well as in the final
section on the Summit. As you know, an EU-Mercosur Association
Agreement is currently under negotiation. Engaging with Mercosur
remains an important aspect of the EU strategy in Latin America.
As stated previously, tackling poverty and inequality
represents the most pressing challenge for most Latin American
countries. They should remain the focus of Community co-operation,
and I can confirm that they are being taken into account in preparations
for the forthcoming EU-LAC Summit in Vienna in May.
Finally, I do not see the Commission's Communication
as signalling an alteration in the balance of the EU's relations
with Latin America and SE Asia. For both regions the EU has a
committed dialogue. The EU's partnership with SE Asia contains
similar priorities, including regional stability, human rights,
trade and investment and development. For both Latin America and
SE Asia the essence of our relations rests on effective dialogue,
which in the case of Latin America the Commission's Communication
I hope that the additional information in this
letter addresses your concernsand that you will be able
to complete the scrutiny process in advance of the GAERC on 27
13 February 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Douglas
Thank you for your letter dated 13 February
which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on 2 March. The
Sub-Committee has now agreed to clear the Commission Communication
We would like to thank you for providing such
full information on the policy implications of the Commission
Communication in your letter, but stress that in future such information
should be contained within Explanatory Memoranda.
7 March 2006