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Opening speech of the 12th Ministerial Meeting between the EU and the Rio Group

Date of Speech : 27-05-2005

Place : Luxembourg

Speaker : Jean Asselborn, current President of the Council of the European Union

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : XIIth Ministerial Meeting EU-Rio Group


European Commissioner responsible for external relations,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honour for me to address, on behalf of the European Union and its Member States, the participants of the 12th Ministerial Meeting between the European Union and the Rio Group. I should like to cordially welcome you all to Luxembourg, particularly those among you who have travelled from Latin America to the heart of Europe. I am particularly pleased to welcome the Romanian and Bulgarian delegations, who are attending their first meeting between the European Union and Latin America.

I am proud that the first institutionalised meeting between the European Community and the countries of the Rio Group was held here in Luxembourg in April 1991. A few streets away from here, the 12 countries which at that time comprised the European Community and the 11 countries of the Rio Group came together to launch a dialogue between the two continents. Fourteen years later, 46 countries are represented around this table. The number of participants has doubled since the first meeting!

I am very pleased about this development and, more particularly, the work that has been carried out over the past years. The various contacts we maintain on a regular basis have considerably strengthened the ties between our two regions.

I should like to highlight the joint efforts to promote our common values, particularly democracy, human rights, good governance and social cohesion.

The third summit between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean, which was held in Guadalajara last year, enabled the European Union to broaden and underpin the strategic partnership forged between our two regions in Rio de Janeiro in 1999. I do not have to remind this assembly of the numerous commitments that have been undertaken within the framework of the summit’s key topics: effective multilateralism and social cohesion.

Commissioner Patten launched the social cohesion initiative at the most recent ministerial meeting between the European Union and the Rio Group in Vouliagmeni in March 2003. Unfortunately, the benefits of democratisation and economic development during the 1990s have not been enjoyed at all levels of society. These people are often faced with inequality and social exclusion, which present an obstacle to economic development and are a source of instability for democratic institutions.

Our aim is to achieve greater social cohesion and, in this regard, I should like to quote Mr Enrique Iglesias, President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), according to whom countries must ‘adopt a natural framework to promote mechanisms and institutions in order to reduce inequality and divisions.’ The European social model is characterised by the link between economic and social development. Strengthening our alliance will also enable us to strengthen social cohesion in Latin America. 

Furthermore, I wish to remind you that in Guadalajara we stressed that poverty, exclusion and inequality are an affront to human dignity; they undermine democracy and threaten peace and stability.

Therefore, we reiterated our commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We emphasised our determination to build fairer societies by strengthening social cohesion and, above all, by assuming wholeheartedly the principles of joint global responsibility, strengthening democratic governance and underlining the fundamental importance of creating jobs to combat poverty.

Dear Colleagues,

Against this background, I should also like to acknowledge, here and now, Latin America’s ever-increasing role and influence on the world stage. On more than one occasion, the European Union has praised the contribution of Latin American countries, both at regional level and within international fora and organisations.

We stated at Vouliagmeni that we share the will to live within an effective multilateral system, with the United Nations Organisation as the cornerstone of this system. The desired aim is to strengthen our cooperation in areas of common interest, such as the fight against terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the fight against drugs trafficking as well as migration.

I also wish to underline the growing involvement of Latin American countries in United Nations’ peacekeeping missions through the dispatch of peacekeeping forces to Afghanistan, the Balkans, Cyprus and, more recently, to Haiti. I feel duty-bound to congratulate you on the fact that the United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is under Brazilian command, and its ranks comprise a considerable number of soldiers from 10 member countries of the Rio Group. By their growing presence, Latin American countries are demonstrating their desire to preserve the values that we hold dear, such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The European Union and its Member States fully share this desire and commitment, as shown by their various contributions to the process underway in Haiti.

Five years after the United Nations Millennium Summit, our heads of state and government are going to meet again at the UNO Summit in September this year. Here, they will evaluate the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, the Millennium Development Goals and the conclusions of the main conferences and summits organised under the aegis of the United Nations.

On several occasions, the European Union has reaffirmed that key decisions and new political directions have to be taken as part of the process to strengthen the United Nations Organisation. Such steps have to be taken in order to face multidimensional threats and to meet the challenge of establishing peace, security and the well-being of our nations and citizens.  

We have welcomed at the highest level, through the heads of state and government, the presentation by the Secretary General Kofi Annan of his report ‘In larger freedom’. There is no doubt whatsoever that we all support a more global approach to the concept of collective security. We agree that development, security, respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy go hand in hand.  

Today, we shall have the opportunity to underline the importance we attach to the September Summit and to strengthening the United Nations Organisation.

Latin America has witnessed significant changes over the past few years. Democratic processes have gradually been introduced. For instance, 28 OAS countries have signed the Tlatelolco Treaty, which seeks to prohibit nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Under the impetus of social and citizens’ movements, the situation has developed in many countries. Political changes at national level, as well as changes in strong political relations at local and national level, have undeniably strengthened democracy in these countries.

A genuine integration process requires a social contract at regional level, between the economic, social and political players. The very dynamics of regional integration are dependent upon it. The current task, both within the European Union and in Latin America, involves introducing new political means, with the participation of all social and economic players in these constituent processes. Let us remind everyone, and ourselves, that no state can act alone in meeting all the challenges. Regional economic integration is certainly capable of providing the appropriate responses. Europe is Latin America’s leading trade partner, its main partner for development and among the leading investors.

Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, I should like to express my complete satisfaction with the beneficial work we carried out throughout the whole of yesterday with the various regional groups and some States. The interview we conducted with Their Royal Highnesses the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess underlines the particular importance they attach to relations with Latin America.

Today, I trust we shall be able, during our talks, to construct our future relations so they bear the best fruit in terms of cooperation, and out of respect for our common values.

I should now like to hand over to my Argentinean colleague, the current President of the Rio Group, with whom I have the pleasure of co-presiding over the 12th Ministerial Meeting between the European Union and the Rio Group.

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This page was last modified on : 27-05-2005

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