Political leaders in the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean should appreciate the value of civil society
Europe and its Member States are the main investor in Latin American and Caribbean countries and their most significant cooperation partner. In fact, the countries of Latin America and Caribbean are the EU’s second largest trading partner – together, the EU and CELAC account for around 25% of global GDP.
At its September plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion on The new context for EU-CELAC strategic relations and the role of civil society. “Forming a strengthened EU-CELAC bloc with a common strategy to tackle global challenges will give it a stronger voice on the international stage”, commented Mário Soares, rapporteur of the opinion. “We need to support Latin America and the Caribbean even more now, with the natural disasters happening in the region”, said Josep Puxeu Rocamora, co-rapporteur of the opinion, at the Plenary. “There is a window of opportunity for the EU and it should act now.” In the opinion, the EESC calls for a deeper partnership between the EU and CELAC, based on a comprehensive framework agreement to include principles for action in terms of political dialogue, cooperation and sustainable development. However, for negotiations of any kind between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean to be successful, it is essential to have a structured form of dialogue with organised civil society. In the specific case of free trade agreements, organised civil society should be genuinely involved at every stage of the negotiations, their implementation and evaluation.
The EESC calls on all political leaders in the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean to acknowledge and value the participation of civil society. This will ensure the involvement of the largest possible number of citizens in the decision-making process. The EESC has repeatedly pointed out the lack of broad access to information as one of the key problems in the monitoring of EU relations with CELAC. The lack of transparency also prevents civil society from drawing up proposals in good time. It is essential to put in place clear rules and procedures governing access to and dissemination of this information. According to the EESC, there should also be sufficient material resources to ensure civil society’s involvement in the negotiations and in formal and open dialogue with the authorities.
The economy, human rights and sustainable development should be treated as an indivisible whole in the EU-CELAC negotiations. The two regions can only tackle the greatest challenges facing our world today, such as poverty, climate change and armed conflict, through cooperation and mutual support.