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LATIN AMERICA | 18-07-2023 15:44

EU salvages Latin American summit after tussle on Ukraine stance

EU and Latin American leaders, except Nicaragua, reached a consensus on expressing concern about the war in Ukraine without naming Russia, signaling a potential shift in global dynamics.

Leaders from the European Union and Latin America — except for Nicaragua — managed to agree on language critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, moving past a debate that threatened to stymie efforts to rejuvenate ties at a two-day summit in Brussels.

The EU was seeking a section in the final joint declaration that condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine and demanded a withdrawal, but countries led by Cuba and Nicaragua objected. They pushed for broader language that showed concern about the war and supported a cessation of hostilities.

At the end, 59 of the 60 countries agreed on language that expressed “deep concern on the ongoing war against Ukraine” — without any mention of Russia. 

“It’s remarkable that we found a wording which many can support, which we maybe didn’t expect in the past,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters after the summit ended. “My impression is that there’s a global shift. Russia shows more and more that it has imperialist interests.”

It “felt like a new beginning for old friends — we need each other,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters. She noted that the leaders agreed to hold an EU-Latin American summit every two years moving forward.

European leaders had earlier fretted about an outcome that would spare Moscow any criticism over its invasion of Ukraine. “You cannot rewrite history,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel insisted to reporters on Tuesday.

The two days of intense negotiations tested the limits of the European push to forge a global coalition to contain Russia, particularly in regions that the bloc has neglected. This week’s summit was the first such meeting in eight years, and only the third one ever held.

“In Europe, we need to take as a fact that sometimes we’re viewed as condescending and sometimes we’re viewed as former colonisers,” Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said in an interview. “So what can we do to counter that when we speak with other countries? Are we speaking in a condescending manner or not? And if so, maybe we should stop doing that because it certainly is counterproductive.”

Chilean Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren acknowledged it was very difficult to find a compromise among his counterparts. “We are very surprised that there are members of our group which oppose any resolution concerning war in Ukraine,” he said. “We think this is the war of aggression.”

Beyond the Russia discussion, the EU was seeking to reduce China’s sway in Latin America and to ensure access to critical raw materials for its digital and green transition.

On Monday, the EU said it would help invest over €45 billion ($50.6 billion) in Latin America and the Caribbean until 2027, using a mix of EU funds, member states’ contributions, development banks and the private sector.

—Times/Bloomberg
 

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