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Qorvis’ Dan Rocha: How the EU and Latin America can strengthen their strategic partnership


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The upcoming Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)-EU Summit, taking place July 17-18, provides a unique opportunity to solidify a strategic partnership between the European Union and Latin America – especially in light of the war in Ukraine.

Dan Rocha, Partner at Qorvis is Brussels (and a lawyer from Brazil), published an op-ed in The Geneva Observer exploring the importance of this summit, and the EU-CELAC partnership more generally.

Read the post on The Geneva Observer website and below.

How the EU and Latin America can strengthen their strategic partnership

By Daniel Rocha*

In today’s rapidly evolving global geopolitical landscape, the European Union (EU) finds itself at a critical juncture, seeking strategic autonomy and a diversified approach to its international relations. The era of unilateralism and protectionism under the previous US administration—coupled with challenges posed by China’s rise, supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—have all reinforced the EU’s quest for self-reliance.

It is within this context that Latin America emerges as a key partner for the EU, offering not only economic opportunities but also the potential for a united front on crucial global issues.

The upcoming Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)-EU summit in July provides a unique opportunity to solidify a strategic partnership between the two regions. The EU recognizes that Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) hold strategic importance, particularly in light of the war in Ukraine. Latin American governments play a vital role in voting on resolutions concerning Russia in the United Nations General Assembly, underscoring their political significance. Moreover, Latin America possesses valuable resources, including natural gas, oil, and lithium, which are crucial for the EU’s supply chains. Additionally, with its favorable climate and geographic conditions, LAC is well-positioned to become a major producer and exporter of green hydrogen, a commodity in high demand as Europe transitions to renewable energy sources.

The October 2022 meeting of foreign ministers from European and LAC countries in Buenos Aires marked a significant step toward revitalizing bi-regional dialogue. This gathering yielded important outcomes, including the renewal of the bi-regional agenda, the establishment of a timetable for activities in 2022 and 2023, and the announcement of a CELAC-EU summit in Brussels in July 2023. Notably, open debates were held on contentious issues such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and human rights violations in Latin America. This departure from previous meetings, where non-democratic governments’ participation dominated the discourse, signifies a positive shift toward addressing critical concerns head-on.

However, the question of how to approach authoritarian regimes in Latin America remains a challenge. While it is imperative to engage all governments in the region, the EU must also uphold its commitment to human rights and openly criticize violations, as some Latin American governments are doing. Striking a delicate balance between inclusivity and the protection of democratic values is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the partnership.

The need for a unified approach on international issues, particularly regarding sanctions related to the war in Ukraine, must be central to the EU-Latin America strategic partnership. Presently, there is no consensus among Latin American countries or between the EU and LAC regarding the imposition of sanctions. The joint communiqué from the Buenos Aires meeting avoided explicitly naming and condemning Russia, highlighting the differing interests and assessments within the partnership.

To forge a robust strategic alliance, it is essential for the EU and Latin America to align their positions on the Ukraine conflict. While Latin America may view its stance as a matter of choice, Europe perceives it as a necessity to defend its core values against a genuine military threat. By bridging this gap and achieving a unified front on sanctions, the EU and Latin America can showcase the strength of their partnership and their shared commitment to international peace and security.

As the EU seeks to establish itself as a reliable and strategic partner to Latin America, it must act strategically. It is vital to foster substantive partnerships rather than rely on grand joint declarations that lack practical consequences. By forging strong alliances with select partners, the EU can demonstrate its commitment to meaningful cooperation and ensure that shared objectives translate into tangible outcomes.

*Daniel Rocha, LLM, is a partner at Qorvis in Brussels. He worked for 13 years at the Brazilian federal bank and holds a Master of Laws degree from Katholiek Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, in International and European Public Law.