CELAC-EU nations gather in Chilean capital for keystone summit

Forty heads of state met in Santiago as part of 7th bi-annual conference of Latin American, Caribbean, and European nations.

President Piñera and President Rousseff and their respective delegations sign agreements to establish cultural and education exchanges. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Karrlsson-Willis/The Santiago Times
President Piñera and President Rousseff and their respective delegations sign agreements to establish cultural and education exchanges. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Karrlsson-Willis/The Santiago Times

Delegations from 60 European Union, Latin American and Caribbean countries, including 40 heads of state, gathered from January 25-27 in Chile’s capital as part of the CELAC-EU summit. The subsequent CELAC summit of Latin American nations took place on Monday.

The CELAC-EU summit addressed a wide array of subjects including the economy, human rights, business, clean energy, tourism, education, technology, and international law.

After talks and deliberations between heads of state, the coalition arrived at the Santiago Declaration, a new document that ratified bi-regional cooperation between Latin American, Caribbean and European nations, and sought to delineate goals for the next CELAC-EU summit in Brussels, Belgium in 2015.

In the closing ceremonies, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, emphasized the success of the bi-regional event, explaining that relations between Europe and CELAC were based on more than just economic ties.

“Here we are in a relationship with democratic countries. We share the same sensitivities as far as rule of law is concerned, human rights, poverty,” Rompuy told the press. “This makes the relationship between CELAC and the EU a unique relationship.”

“We knew this before coming to Santiago, but we leave with an even deeper understanding than before,» he added.

One of the summit’s main goals was to strengthen free trade agreements between the two regions.

«Latin America is a key trading partner for the EU and vice versa and the same is true for foreign direct investment,” Rompuy said. “We need more trade, more free trade, and we need to avoid protectionism.»

CELAC-EU Business Summit, Friday January 25

With this key goal in mind, a parallel business summit was held on Friday, January 25 where prominent business leaders from the two regions met to discuss issues of sustainable direct investment in Latin America by European nations.

At Friday’s event, Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy explained how the nation’s investments in Latin America helped keep the nation afloat in times economic turmoil.

“Our investments have helped us resist the negative impact of the crisis,” Rajoy said. “That is to say, our experience confirms that investment is not just for the country that receives it, but for the country that gives it.”

In addition to Rajoy, important international business figures like Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim, CEO of French energy company GDF Suez Gérard Mestrallet, and CEO of Telecom Italia Franco Bernabe, all made appearances at the summit.

Aiming to promote sustainable investment in Latin American and Caribbean countries, Rajoy stressed that investment must be mutually beneficial to both parties.

“The powerful voices behind foreign investment demand that civil society be held accountable for the impact that the investment has on communities,” Rajoy explained. “The investment [must] produce economic and human development in an environmentally sustainable form.”

CELAC Summit, Monday January 28

While this was the 7th bi-annual CELAC-EU summit, this was the first time that CELAC heads of state convened to directly discuss issues affecting the region.

Monday’s CELAC summit brought together representatives from 33 nations from across Latin America and the Caribbean. At the summit, CELAC delegates defined lines of action for 2013 and reviewed previous progress.

One shadow across the summit occurred when Brazil President Dilma Rousseff had to depart suddenly when news broke of a tragic fire at a nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil, responsible for the deaths of more than 200 people.

Despite this tragedy, the summits concluded optimistically with bright hopes for the years to come in Latin American, Caribbean, and European states.

“2013 will be a year of sowing seeds,” Chile President Sebastían Piñera said during CELAC-EU’s closing ceremonies. “But 2014 will be a year of harvest.”