European Council President Spokesperson
Es para mi un placer darles la bienvenida a Bruselas, la capital de Europa. Bem- vindos! Bienvenus! Welcome! Bienvenidos!
Antes de continuar, déjenme decirles lo contento que estoy de que nos reunamos hoy aquí, para fortalecer los lazos de nuestra asociación duradera, basada en objetivos comunes y el respeto mutuo. Me alegra ver que las diferencias que nos separaban en el pasado, se han ido disipando durante décadas y nuestras naciones se han ido acercando. Esta semana, nos reunimos no sólo para realzar nuestras buenas relaciones, sino también para mirar hacia el futuro; como les contaré enseguida.
Sixteen years ago, all 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries and a European Union of fifteen Member States, met in Rio de Janeiro for the first time, launching what has become a truly strategic partnership.
In the last two decades the world and our regions have changed. The EU has doubled its membership, introduced a single currency and adopted a new Treaty. In Latin America and the Caribbean most internal conflicts have been peacefully resolved, the region has grown economically and integrated further through the creation of CELAC.
I applaud these major developments. Our partnership has contributed to some of these important changes. The European Union is the main cooperator, largest direct investor and second trade partner of Latin America and the Caribbean. We have an all-weather partnership, not just when things are going well, but also when there are clouds.
But we cannot rest on past achievements. Our partnership needs to be modernised along with the changes in the world. Our relationship is reinforced by the strongest bonds - those of our people. The involvement of our citizens and civil society is key for our partnership's success. The EU-LAC Foundation plays a special role. We hope that with the agreement to turn it into an international body, ownership and support for its activities will increase. The EU will continue its financial support to the Foundation, with €3 million over the next two years.
Our challenge now is to become a partnership for the next generation. A partnership that is symmetrical, balanced and equitable. This should be our ambition for the summit and our future work.
Our regions have a lot to gain from working closely together - and much to lose if we do not. Together the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean account for more than 1 billion people; form one third of the UN's membership, and generate almost one third of the world's GDP. Together our regions have the highest number of democracies, we both value regionalism, multilateralism and the principles of the UN Charter, and we seek sustainable and inclusive growth.
Of course, we have our differences. But there is much more uniting us than dividing us. And we have a duty to shape our common future and work for prosperous, cohesive and sustainable societies.
We are building on a solid basis. Our strategic association has a joint action plan, that we will modernise and expand at this summit, and bilateral and sub-regional agreements, promoting political dialogue, cooperation and trade. Now we need to move to the next level: increasing political dialogue, deepening economic ties and developing a new type of cooperation.
We will stand by the efforts of President Santos to achieve a lasting peace in Colombia. I am pleased to announce that the EU will set up a Trust Fund to support post-conflict actions in the country. We support the process of modernisation in Cuba, and we are committed to conclude negotiations of our Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement. We welcome the full normalisation of Cuba's relations with the United States and the end of the embargo.
We can do much to help each other to address important challenges we both face, such as reconciling growth with equity, modernising productive structures, generating quality jobs and protecting our environment.
We also want to stand by you in promoting citizen security. I am glad that an action plan to implement the EU citizen security strategy has just been adopted. This is complementary to the Central American and Caribbean countries' own strategies. In today's world, cooperation among like-minded regions is a must. So we need to find ways to partner more effectively on global issues.
Climate change is a common threat. We need to achieve an ambitious agreement for COP 21 in Paris. We both seek a transformative post-2015 development agenda combining poverty eradication and sustainable development. And we need to continue working for an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem.
These are all issues that we will discuss and where we have to converge if we want to shape our common future. We also need to be more vigilant in promoting and protecting our common values. They are being challenged in many parts of the world. We cannot shy away from promoting and defending key principles such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law, sovereignty, and a strong and independent civil society. Part of the modernisation and updating of our partnership must be assuming joint responsibilities in promoting a fairer and rule-based multilateral order.
The European Union is not just a territory, it is a common endeavour in constant evolution; CELAC is more than just a group of countries, it embodies an ambitious vision of Latin American and Caribbean unity.
As the great Latin American writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez, who sadly left us last year, reminded us: "No es cierto que la gente deje de perseguir sus sueños porque envejece, más bien envejece cuando deja de perseguir sus sueños." - "It is not true that people stop pursuing their dreams because they get older; we only grow old when we stop pursuing our dreams".
Despite being old partners, our partnership is not ageing, because our dreams and goals of regional integration, convergence in diversity, and a fairer multilateral order, are alive and well. And as we pursue them, we have to continue working on the promising and concrete reality of EU-CELAC relations. Both realms have the potential to keep changing our peoples' lives for the better.