EU’s Latin America Offensive (III)

In the run-up to next week’s EU-CELAC summit, resistance grows in Latin America against exploitation as a raw material supplier to EU. Latin American countries demand reparations for colonial crimes.

BRUSSELS/BRASÍLIA (Own report) – Serious tensions are casting a shadow over EU’s summit with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that will begin next Monday. With this summit, the first since 2015, the EU seeks to revitalize its relations with Latin American states. This has to be seen in the context of the EU’s endeavors to improve its access to the subcontinent’s natural resources, which are essential for the EU’s energy transition – from lithium to green hydrogen. This is being met with resistance. “No one” can “doom” Latin American countries “to being suppliers of raw materials, that others process industrially,” to then “sell us the over-priced products,” Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández recently protested. Controversy also exists over the EU-CELAC summit declaration. With regards to the Ukraine war, CELAC also refuses to side with the West and instead demands a written admission to the crimes committed under European colonial rule – and a commitment to pay reparations. It looks like the CELAC nations want to be perceived as equal partners,” an EU diplomat notes.

“Natural Resources the EU needs”

In its struggle for influence in Latin America, the EU recently launched an offensive that it had announced already last year. Underlying interests and the means by which they are to be realized are outlined in the new Latin America strategy, published by the EU Commission on June 7.[1] It provides for the expansion of economic relations. In particular, the EU has set its sights on raw materials needed for the European energy transition – from green hydrogen to lithium, on which particularly the automotive industry depends for the batteries in its new electric cars. “Lithium, copper, green hydrogen – these are things Europe needs and that Argentina can supply,” declared EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in mid-June in Buenos Aires, during her four-day visit to Latin America.[2] To optimize its access to natural resources, the EU wants to finally ratify its free trade agreement with Mercosur, which has been in the pipeline for nearly a quarter of a century. It is, however, being met with fierce resistance. Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, for example, objected to von der Leyen’s request to sign an environmental supplementary document to the agreement: Brazil will not submit to the sanctions threatened by the EU in this document. ( reported.[3])

“Not Doomed to be an Exporter of Raw Materials”

Meanwhile Mercosur’s dissent is becoming more fundamental. The South American alliance of states canceled its June 29 – 30, meeting with the EU, at which the negotiations on the free trade agreement and the supplementary document were to be continued. More time was needed for the formulation of their own proposals, was the reason given.[4] At the Mercosur summit on July 3 – 4, in Puerto Iquazú, Lula repeated his criticism of the supplementary document, which he called “unacceptable” He also confirmed that he rejects those passages in the free trade agreement in which official state contracts would be made available to companies from the EU. Public contracts are “among the few economic policy instruments that we still have.” They are needed to promote smaller and medium sized Brazilian enterprises.[5] Argentina’s President Albert Fernández, on the other hand, affirmed that Mercosur should not allow itself to be reduced to the function of supplier of raw materials. “No one” can “doom us,” explained Fernández, “to being suppliers of raw materials, that others process industrially,” to then “sell us the over-priced products.”[6] Lula agreed. “It is not in our interest to sign an agreement that would doom us to the interminable role of raw material exporters.”

Zelensky Disinvited

The EU is facing strong headwinds not only on the question of the free trade agreement with Mercosur, but also at the summit with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the association of all 33 sovereign nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, due to be held at the beginning of next week in Brussels. The EU’s new Latin America strategy provides for holding these summit meetings regularly, and when possible, alternating with meetings of the foreign ministers of the two sides. According to recent reports, CELAC had responded to the draft summit declaration, sent by the EU in June, with a counter a draft, dated July 4. The EU’s draft had also contained several paragraphs sharply condemning Russia for its intervention in the Ukraine war. This corresponds to the attempt by the EU to use every international meeting to impose the Western position concerning the Ukraine war on the other side. However, it regularly fails in its attempt, as it does now with the draft for the EU-CELAC summit. The CELAC counter-proposal deleted everything about Ukraine.[7] They had even previously turned down the EU’s high-handed invitation of the Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to attend the summit meeting. Zelensky was officially disinvited.

“Diplomatic Solution”

In its draft, CELAC included the phrase “advocate for serious and constructive diplomatic solutions to the current conflict in Europe.” This must be done “by peaceful means,” it states in direct contradiction to the massive arms buildup for Ukraine also by the EU. It also advocates measures “which guarantees the sovereignty and security of us all, as well as regional and international peace, stability and security.” Thus, CELAC backs the continued efforts, particularly of Brazil’s President Lula to mediate between Moscow and Kiev, to achieve a ceasefire.[8] One EU diplomat was quoted to have said in relationship to CELAC’s position on the war in Ukraine, that it seems that “we are not on the same wavelength,” and regarding CELAC’s not being prepared to support the EU’s position, “it looks like they [the CELAC nations (editor’s note)] want to be perceived as equal partners.”[9]

Reparations for Colonial Crimes

Lastly, in the counter-proposal, CELAC explicitly recalls the European countries’ colonial rule over Latin America and the Europeans’ abduction and enslavement of Africans on the subcontinent. “We acknowledge and profoundly regret the untold suffering inflicted on millions of men, women and children as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade of Africans,” the draft reads. CELAC also proposed the following formulation in the paper, “We recognize the need for appropriate measures to be taken to restore the dignity of the victims.” These include “reparations and compensation to help to heal our collective memory, and to reverse the legacies of underdevelopment.”[10] The EU-CELAC summit will show whether the EU, which is constantly boasting about its alleged “values,” is prepared to sign such a formulation and to contribute to the alleviation of the persisting consequences of the innumerable colonial crimes.


[1] Europäische Kommission, Hoher Vertreter der Union für die Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik: Gemeinsame Mitteilung an das Europäische Parlament und den Rat: Eine neue Agenda für die Beziehungen zwischen der EU und Lateinamerika und der Karibik. Brüssel, 07.06.2023.

[2], [3] See also EU’s Latin America Offensive (II).

[4] Mariana Haubert, Paulo Silva Pinto: Reunião presencial entre Mercosul e União Europeia é cancelada. 20.06.2023.

[5] Mercosur-Gipfel: Argentinien und Brasilien fordern Augenhöhe mit EU. 10.07.2023.

[6] Vilma Guzmán: Mercosur-Staaten einig gegen EU-Diktat. 08.07.2023.

[7], Alexandra Brzozowski: LEAK: Latin American countries push back on Ukraine, EU agenda ahead of joint summit. 06.07.2023.

[8] See also Der Übergang zur Diplomatie (II).

[9], [10] Alexandra Brzozowski: LEAK: Latin American countries push back on Ukraine, EU agenda ahead of joint summit. 06.07.2023.