In an effort to find new political and economic allies, the European Union will push for a two-day EU-CELAC meeting in Brussels on Monday, when over 50 leaders from the European Union, Latin America, and the Caribbean will meet for the first time in eight years.
At the summit, both sides are anticipated to be eager to create economic alliances, but sensitive topics like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s complicity in the slave trade could complicate the talks.
Regardless of the outcome, officials say the meeting itself marks a step towards stronger ties.
The EU has stated its desire for a joint declaration denouncing Russia, but recognises that this will be difficult to achieve. While the majority of CELAC countries supported a UN resolution in February urging an early evacuation of Russian troops, Nicaragua voted against it, while Bolivia, Cuba, and El Salvador abstained.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has positioned himself as a prospective peace mediator and neutral.
The European Union has cut itself off from Russia, which until the Ukraine war began in February last year, was the bloc’s biggest supplier of gas.
It also wants to reduce its reliance on China and build alliances with “reliable partners” to open up more markets to trade and to secure minerals critical for electric vehicles and the broader transition to a low carbon economy, a supply chain China dominates.
The EU has acknowledged it has sometimes neglected its Latin American partners as China’s role in the region has risen, but that regular EU-CELAC summits can provide a counter-balance to Beijing.
Although keen for EU investment, CELAC partners generally want the economic benefits of processing and producing lithium batteries or electric vehicles, rather than the smaller returns of shipping minerals to be processed elsewhere.
The EU is pressing ahead with a trade agreement with Chile, the world’s largest copper producer and second largest lithium producer, and officials have said it could enter force next year.
It is also hoping to reopen trade agreements signed with Mexico in 2018 and the Mercosur group of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay in 2019, though officials have downplayed the likelihood of any breakthroughs during the summit.
Before the summit, the EU and Argentina will sign a memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation.