Lula and Pedro Sánchez.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (L) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. (AP)


LatAm in Focus: Michael Reid on This EU-Latin American Moment

By Chase Harrison

With Spain helming the EU, the Madrid-based journalist and long-time Latin America observer covers the state of interregional ties.

It’s a Spanish summer over in the European Union.

With Spain’s six-month term holding the European Council’s presidency kicking off at the start of July, Madrid is in the policy driver’s seat. And at the top of its agenda, according to the EU’s foreign policy chief, Spainard Josep Borrell, is rekindling ties with Latin America.

Michael Reid
Michael Reid

Relations between Latin America and Europe have sagged over the past few years, especially amid the rise of China. “The EU did have quite a lot of influence during the period of democratization in Latin America in the late seventies to early nineties,” says writer Michael Reid. “I think it has faded since then.” The long-time Latin America columnist for The Economist and author of Spain: The Trials and Triumphs of a Modern European Country talked with AS/COA Online’s Chase Harrison about what has caused the relationship to weaken over the interceding years as the two regions have struggled to coordinate on issues like trade policy or democratic unity.

Reid says part of the problem involves “the difficulty that Latin America has had recently in presenting a common front to the world more generally,” making the region a challenging bloc for Europe to rely on. Take, for example, the region’s uneven stance on the war in Ukraine. “Latin America hasn't bought into the European vision of the war in Ukraine,  which is that it was an unprovoked aggression,” Reid explains. “The EU as a consequence of [Ukraine has realized] it needs to be more active diplomatically in the world, and particularly in the democratic parts of the world.”

It will get that chance on July 17 and 18, when leaders from the European Union and Latin America meet in Brussels for the third EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit. The forum, which was supposed to occur every two years, hasn’t taken place since 2015.

“I think there'll be two things that dominate the media coverage of the summit. One is Ukraine, and the other is whether or not the presidents of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua attend.”

What might be on the agenda? For one, finalizing the free-trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, a trade bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Negotiations on that agreement kicked off in 1999. “I wrote a story when they began. And, you know, 24 years later, the agreement is still not in existence,” says Reid. 

The success of that agreement might depend on Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. And on the Mercosur free-trade agreement, he seems unenthusiastic. “Firstly, he doesn't like being dictated to on the environment for sovereignty reasons,” Reid explains. “But secondly, he worries that the agreement would… speed the deindustrialization of Brazil."

In general, Reid is skeptical that this moment can bear fruit. “Latin America doesn't like being taken for granted,” he says. “And it's not clear what concrete initiatives the EU is offering.”

This episode was produced by Jon Orbach and Executive Producer Luisa Leme. Carin Zissis is the host. 

The music in this podcast is “La pollera colorá” by Carlota Santana, and it was performed for Americas Society. 

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