EU-CELAC Summit Strengthens Ties Amid Ukraine War and China Suspicions

EU, Latin America, Caribbean Leaders Hold First Summit in Eight Years

Brussels – Over 50 leaders from the European Union, Latin America, and the Caribbean are set to convene for their first summit in eight years, adding impetus to the EU’s efforts to establish new political and economic alliances in the wake of the Ukraine conflict and concerns about China. The two-day EU-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit in Brussels aims to foster economic partnerships, but thorny discussions about Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Europe’s historical involvement in the slave trade could complicate the talks.

Despite the potential challenges, officials see the meeting itself as a significant step towards stronger ties. “The most important issue of the meeting is the meeting itself,” said Gustavo Martinez Pandiani, Argentina’s Undersecretary for Latin American and Caribbean affairs. “After eight years, we are able to reconnect.”

One major focus for the EU is seeking a joint declaration condemning Russia, although it acknowledges that achieving consensus on the matter will be challenging. While most CELAC countries supported a UN resolution in February urging immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, Nicaragua voted against it, and Bolivia, Cuba, and El Salvador abstained. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has positioned himself as a neutral mediator.

In addition to addressing concerns over Russia, the EU is keen on reducing its reliance on China and building new alliances with “reliable partners” to expand trade opportunities and secure critical minerals for electric vehicles and the transition to a low-carbon economy, an area where China currently dominates. The EU acknowledges that it has sometimes neglected its Latin American partners as China’s presence in the region has grown, and regularly convening EU-CELAC summits could serve as a counterbalance to Beijing.

All 60 leaders have been invited to the Brussels talks, but the presidents of El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela are among those not expected to attend. While CELAC partners welcome EU investment, they are more interested in reaping the economic benefits of processing and producing lithium batteries or electric vehicles instead of simply shipping minerals elsewhere for processing.

The EU is moving ahead with a trade agreement with Chile, the world’s largest copper producer and second-largest lithium producer, which officials say could take effect next year. Efforts are also underway to finalize trade deals with Mexico (struck in 2018) and the Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay) by 2019, although officials have downplayed expectations of breakthroughs during the summit. Furthermore, the EU and Argentina will sign an energy cooperation memorandum of understanding prior to the summit’s commencement.

As part of its Global Gateway initiative, the EU may reveal plans to invest 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion) in infrastructure projects across CELAC. This investment seeks to boost connectivity and collaboration between the EU and Latin American and Caribbean countries.

In summary, the EU-CELAC summit marks a crucial milestone in reviving and strengthening relations between the EU, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Leaders from all three regions are eager to deepen economic partnerships, address concerns over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and reduce dependence on China. While challenges lie ahead, particularly in formulating a joint declaration on Russia, the meeting itself signifies a significant step towards closer ties and a more balanced approach to international alliances.