EU-CELAC Summit and the future of hemispheric integration

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    Presidents, left, Enrique Pena Nieto, of Mexico, Jose Manuel Santos, of Colombia, Sebastian Pinera, of Chile and Ollanta Humala, of Peru, pose for pictures during the EU-CELAC summit in Santiago, Chile, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

    Around 40 heads of state and 60 diplomatic delegations from countries of the European Union (EU), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), met during the weekend of January 26 in Santiago, Chile. The EU-CELAC summit focused on increasing trade ties between the two blocs while promoting sustainable development and protecting the environment.

    Whereas the future of European economies remains uncertain due to the enormous amount of ongoing problems with several of its member countries, the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean continue to boom. However, not everything is perfect among CELAC members and the real underlying question is not the future of EU-CELAC relations but whether CELAC will be able to maintain unity between the new organization’s over 30 members during the coming years.

    Europe needed a ‘win’

    The EU-CELAC summit took place amidst that fog of the current global financial storm that has hit the EU particularly hard. EU countries like Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal have come very close to economic collapse on several occasion over the past few years, and their continued near insolvency and austere fiscal reforms have sparked several major protests, particularly in Greece.

    In addition, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his intent to hold a referendum regarding British membership in the EU by 2018 at the latest. What more, Scotland will hold a referendum regarding a possible Scottish independence from the UK in 2014. These challenges mean that the EU and its members will likely face many dramatic challenges in the near future.

    Conversely, Latin America and the Caribbean have been enjoying an economic boom over the last decade, where countries like Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru have become economic powerhouses. As a result of economic growth, vast natural resources and a growing productive workforce, CELAC has increasingly attracted trade and investments from the international community. For example, the U.S. is looking to create an ambitious intercontinental free trade area, the Trans Pacific Partnership, which would include Australia, Singapore as well as Latin American nations like Mexico, Chile and Peru. In addition, Latin American trade with China has continued to grow. Finally, Latin America has also approached Middle Eastern markets, as exemplified by the Third summit between the Arab World and South America held in Peru. In light of recent positive regional economic developments in the Western Hemisphere, it was no surprise that Europe strove to portray itself as an attractive trade partner in Santiago.

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