Latin America allies with the European Union amid warnings against "extractivism"

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A shower of investments grouped under the umbrella of the Global Gateway (45,000 million euros to which will be added national contributions and international organizations), the promise that European companies will share knowledge and not only extract natural resources, as well as the signing of agreements of cooperation in energy matters with Argentina, Chile or Uruguay, gave the starting signal yesterday in Brussels to the summit of leaders of the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac).

After an eight-year hiatus, the current complex geopolitical context pushes the two parties to cooperate and go from being "natural partners to partners of choice", but the Latin American representatives marked ground from the outset. “We do not want to be seen as a region for the extraction of raw materials, but as a partner in the search for solutions, partners and not simply suppliers,” declared the president of CAF, the Latin American development bank, Sergio Díaz-Granados. "It is not acceptable that we are just a quarry of natural resources, condemned to extractivism and the provision of cheap food and low-skilled labor," added the Mexican Foreign Minister, Alicia Bárcena, during the business forum prior to the summit.

"We Europeans have been arrogant towards Latin America, Africa and Asia", says the Dutch prime minister

The energy crisis, added to factors such as the rise of the pulse between the United States and China or the need to add allies to the European vision of the war in Ukraine have led the EU to look to the south of the American continent. “Latin America and the Caribbean have the potential to become a global renewable energy powerhouse,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Thanks to European investments, "the natural step would be to switch to clean hydrogen," he added, pointing to the possibility of exporting resources to Europe and the abundance of critical raw materials for the green transition but showing understanding of Latin American concerns and marking distances with others. actors. “Europe wants to be your partner of choice [en el sector de las materias primas críticas]” but “unlike other foreign investors it is not only interested in investing in pure resource extraction. We want to partner with you to build local capabilities to process them, and make batteries and end products, like electric vehicles,” she said.

“This summit will give a new life to our bond”, assured Charles Michel, president of the European Council, in the opening session of the summit. The meeting "will mark a before and after" in the bi-regional relationship, assured the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, who took the opportunity to claim the potential of the EU and Latin America to defend multilateralism and the principles of the UN.

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The cautious speeches of European leaders – littered with quotes from great Latin American authors such as Jorge Luis Borges (“Unlike love, friendship is not something that requires frequency and this summit demonstrates it,” Michel said) were met with abundant warnings against the temptation to return to seeing the south as a mere quarry of resources or to turn the summit into a debate on the war in Ukraine.

"EU countries may have understandable concern about the situation in Ukraine, but this summit must not become another useless battleground for speeches on this issue, which has been and is being addressed in other more relevant forums," he warned. the current president of Celac, Ralph Gonsalves, president of the Grenadines and Saint Vincent, who called attention to other conflicts that do not receive the same attention, such as Haiti, Palestine or parts of Africa.

This summit "must not become a useless battlefield" over Ukraine, advises the Celac presidency

The rejection of a bipolar world is also another of the factors that pushes the EU and Celac to cooperate. "We cannot submit to a new bipolarity (...), together we can present an alternative to the other world actors," said the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández. The Brazilian president joined his proclamations against a bipolar world (“Dividing the world into antagonistic blocs would be crazy,” he said) but clearly distanced himself from some European policies. "Using sanctions and blockades without the support of international law is something that only serves to penalize the most vulnerable parts of the population."

The jug of cold water that Celac's response to the EU proposal to include a condemnation of the war in Ukraine in the final declaration of the summit – still subject to negotiations – was the final confirmation for many European leaders up to to what extent the relationship with countries of the so-called Global South has been neglected. “The lesson is that we Europeans have been quite arrogant,” admitted the acting Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte.

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