Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

A stronger partnership between the EU and Latin America

Delivered in Plenary - 26th April 2006

Madam President

Regrettably, in the last few years, particularly after the last wave of EU enlargement to the current 25 Member States, Latin America has ceased to be as much in focus politically as it was immediately after, say, the accession of Portugal and Spain in the 1980s and 1990s. Let us hope, however, that the 12 May Summit will change all of this.

As ENP rapporteur I have had to recalibrate and accept that clearly our strategic EU interests have by necessity refocused on our Eastern European and Caucasus neighbours and our Euromed partners, as well as our strategic interests further afield in China and India. Nevertheless, to neglect Latin America would be at our peril. Not only do we share a common cultural heritage and fundamental Western values on democracy, human rights and the rule of law as well as having a small piece of EU territory there in the form of French Guiana. However, in the scramble for natural resources we must not for instance allow China to collar the Venezuelan oil supplies, for instance, or cease to support the efforts of President Uribe and his fight in Colombia against the FARC drug-dealing Marxist terrorists.

We face in the region a degree of potential instability now, with the rise of demi-gods such as Presidents Morales and Chavez in Bolivia and Venezuela respectively, who cosy up to the Castro Communist dictatorship of Cuba and reject Western concepts of freedom and democracy. Haiti is also a country which also remains lawless and unstable at present. Fortunately, the huge recent rise in oil and commodity prices has benefited much of the region, but we should celebrate the success of the Mexican and Chilean EU free trade agreements and look to extend these to a deal with Mercosur, because regional economic integration and multilateralism has to be the way ahead to prevent a breakdown in the fragile stability of the region.

Personally, I sincerely hope that we can eventually have a Euro-Latin American free trade area by 2010 as suggested, as the United States of America now seems to have lost all interest in the concept of a free trade area of the Americas and instead is doing bilateral deals with individual Latin American countries which I think in the longer term will undermine the regional integration which is so important for our Latin American friends.