Saturday 12 December 2009

EU & Latin America: The cautious approach by the EU Foreign Affairs Council

Now that we are approaching the Spanish Council Presidency, the first rotating EU Council presidency that will not lead the European Council, one of the main foreign policy issues for Spain - Latin America - is gaining importance on the agenda, yet without gaining importance.

Grahnlaw has already written some words on the coming Council presidency in November. And last week, the Spanish have presented their priorities, quite vague priorities as Eva notes, but it seems clear for analysts like Carlos Bohigas that the relations to Latin America will be one special colour of the next presidency's work.

However, if you read through the Council conclusions on EU - Latin America relations agreed upon this week at the Foreign Affairs Council (based on a Commission communication from October plus Annex), you will find a very hesitant and cautious approach by the foreign ministers that will not give much room for the Spanish in the first semester of 2010.

There are some details about possible fields of action in these conclusions, but the document is best summarised by its last paragraph:
"The Council considers that the Madrid Summit [with the Latin American countries in May] should focus on reaffirming the common priorities, and concentrate on delivering concrete and tangible strategies and actions [...]. In this context the Council recognises the value of launching new initiatives at the Summit."
In other words: We don't want anything new, let's try to work on agreed matters that haven't been functional until now.

And the foreign ministers consigned the European Council to decide on any further initiative - which is not much knowing that Latin America is not mentioned with a word in the European Council conclusions from yesterday's summit, the last one this year.

So anyone expecting the Spanish to be able to put Latin America higher on the agenda than this status quo consensus of EU member states as of today might be disappointed at the end of next June, especially since Spain will not be chairing the European Council (van Rompuy) or the Foreign Affairs Council (Ashton) to push the issue as much as previous presidencies were able to do with their own topics.