Baliuk N.V.

PhD student,

Institute of International Relations of Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University


Summary: The article is focused on the interregional cooperation between the European Union and the Latin America and the Caribbean, and mechanism of such cooperation beyond the summit diplomacy and parliamentary ties. The author provides an insights into the EU election observation mission as the part of EU support to LAC in democracy and good governance sphere. A special attention is also provided to EU-LAC civil society and business forums as the instrument with grass roots involvement to the interregional cooperation.

Key words: interregional cooperation, European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, democracy, election observation missions, civil society forum, business forum.

Background. Interregional cooperation between the European Union (EU) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) began since the first official contacts in late 1950s and has gradually developed into a system of interregional ties. Until the 1990s, the European Union’s cooperation with states and organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean was based on separate irregular contacts. In the early 1990’s, a dialogue has started with MERCOSUR, the Andean Community of Nations while deepening relations with Central America and the Caribbean. A number of framework agreements were signed, envisaging the development of economic and political cooperation, and further development of interregional cooperation.

The partners in this interregional dialogue have constantly expanded the complex of mechanisms of joint interaction. For example, the practice of inter-parliamentary cooperation, which was widely used in 1970s, continued. Eventually it was complemented by the work of joint inter-parliamentary committees and councils that were created as a result of an active dialogue EU conducted with Mexico, Chile and Brazil. At the end of the 1990s, periodic high-level meetings at the “state-state” level were expanded through summits at the highest level. Summits were also held in the «region-region» format (EU – all LAC countries), and later in the form of the «organization-organization» (eg: EU — MERCOSUR) and «organization-state» (eg: EU-Mexico) summits. Meetings between individual states of two regions continued within the framework of Ibero-American cooperation.

Currently, the EU is collaborating with countries and organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean to achieve common goals and principles through a range of political, diplomatic, financial, economic, trade, cultural, educational and other means. One of the key areas of EU interest in spreading the values of democracy and good governance.

Moveover, over the last twenty years, the mechanisms of interregional cooperation between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean have developed very actively, rooting in each level. Studying the experience of informal meetings, which are initiated and organized by civil society organizations, representatives of business and different associations, helps to understand how complex is EU-LAC cooperation and how important are multilevel communications.

In academic and political circles that follow relations between the European Union and Latin America much attention is focused on the strategy of the EU towards the region and volume of the support provided by the EU to LAC states. There is some research on the cooperation of the EU with organizations in Latin America.

Most of the research on this topic is covered by Western researchers, for example, Celestino del Arenal „Relations between the EU and Latin America: Abandoning Regionalism in Favour of a New Bilateral Strategy”, José Antonio Sanahuja „Relations between the European Community and Central America in the 1990s: continuity, reactivation or change?”, Joaquin Roy „The European Union and the Caribbean: the Case of Cuba”, Marcin Gavrycki «Unia Europejska – Ameryka Łacińska I Karaiby: trudne partnerstwo dwoch regionow», Ramon Torrent Las Relaciones Unión Europea – América Latina en los Últimos Diez Años: El Resultado de La Inexistencia de Una Política. Un análisis empírico y esperanzado” and Manuel Cienfuegos Mateo «Implications of European Union Enlargement for Euro-Mercosur relations».

Yet, much of the existing literature provides an overview of the state of affairs in Latin America and in Europe within a specified timeline (noting the beginning of cooperation and highlighting the 1990-s as the time of multiple agreements and first interregional summit), or look at the cooperation through economic lenses.

Therefore, this article is aimed at examining the cooperation of the EU with LAC states beyond the more traditional summit diplomacy and parliamentary connections. The main focus is cooperation in sphere of democracy and governance and close coordination of business and civil societies on both sides of the Atlantic. The author identified the few tasks of this paper: to highlight the key activities EU has been conducting in the sphere of democracy and good governance; how business is helping to form economic agenda for interregional cooperation and what is the role of the civil society in building EU – LAC multilevel dialogue.

One of the important issues for interregional cooperation between the European Union and the Latin America and the Caribbean is the maintenance and development of democracy in the Latin American and Caribbean region. EU support for human rights, democracy and the rule of law is governed by several treaties. Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union explicitly states that the principles of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law are fundamental European values [2]. The human rights and election observation missions are carried out within the framework of the EU mandate, whose treaty deals with the protection and promotion of human rights, and the promotion of democratization as the cornerstone of the EU’s foreign policy and the development of cooperation between the EU and other countries. Since 1992, the European Commission has included in all its treaties with third countries the issue of the development of democracy and human rights.

Decisions of the European Councils #975/99 and #976/99 of April 29, 1999 provided the legal basis for the Community’s activities for the further development and consolidation of democracy. This approach was further developed in the Cotonou Agreement, which was signed with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) in June 2000, and was based on respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, as well as good governance. This is an important step in the development of European Union human rights policy and today. Indeed, entire EU development policies, such as poverty reduction, can only be achieved where representative democracy and accountable governments operate [1, p. 4].

Tools for implementing EU democracy and human rights policies range from political dialogue and diplomatic steps to various instruments of financial and technical cooperation. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which came into force in 2007, has the specific objective of helping to secure human rights and democracy goals internationally and nationally, complementing activities under various EU national and regional cooperation programs. However, it should be noted that, unlike the EU’s regional programs for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Commission implements targeted projects within the framework of the EIDHR.

Within the framework of this direction, the European Union pays considerable attention to various missions, including election observation missions. Since the establishment of the European Union until 2015, the EU sent the election observation missions 25 times. In accordance with international electoral law, namely, the Declaration on the Principles of International Election Observation [3, p. 4], an international organization may send election observation missions only at the invitation of the state, therefore the presence of representatives of the mission should be desirable in the country where the elections or referendums take place. If we follow the EU election observation missions from 1992 to 2015, then it becomes apparent that the countries to which such missions to Latin America and the Caribbean have been located are different in size and political or economic weight. Our research shows that the European Union monitored elections in Bolivia, Venezuela, Haiti, Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and El Salvador. In almost all of these countries, the observation mission was sent once or twice, but Nicaragua (where there were 5 European missions) and Ecuador (4 missions during the first decade of the third millennium) were under special attention.

According to European legislation, EU election observation missions are funded by EU Member States (countries pay for their long-term and short-term observers), but when these funds are not enough, the EU provides funding from a budget that is designed to support government programs. As stated in the Commission’s 2000 Communication, «this is in line with the development approach that links the political developments with sustainable development, and also ensures ownership of the political process by one or another country. It also complies with the provisions of the EU treaties (Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 177 of the Treaty establishing the European Community) and the provisions on human rights contained in treaties with third countries and in EU law [4, p. 13].

Although the main goal of the election observation missions is to assist the partner countries in holding high-level elections and in this context, the EU EOM carries out a comprehensive analysis of the electoral process and provides an objective and reasoned assessment of the elections to strengthen voter confidence in the electoral and political processes, all the same issues that go into detailed study are considerably wider than the electoral rights and the electoral process. Thus, during the election observation mission, observers assess citizens’ awareness of political issues, the work of political parties, the access of women, people with disabilities, national minorities and other marginalized groups to political processes and their ability to influence the formation and implementation of state policies. In addition, the freedom of the media and the activity of judges are aimed at, namely the ability of any citizen to protect their rights and other related issues.

The first EU election observation mission to Latin America was held in Nicaragua in the fall of 1996, when both parliamentary and presidential and local elections took place simultaneously. In 1998, European observers came to Paraguay for parliamentary elections.

The European Union could not send missions to all countries, because it needs a lot of resources, therefore, countries in the transition period that held the first or second national elections were usually selected. In the early 2000s, the number of missions of the European Union to other countries increased significantly, and EU decided to change the “ad hoc approach” (when each mission depending on the country and specific situation) and defined a European policy for conducting such missions, developed methodology and action plan [4, p. 3].

With this aim, the European Commission’s Communication to the European Parliament on assistance and observation of elections included the following recommendations. In order to strengthen democracy, free elections should be held at different levels, therefore, it was proposed to send a local monitoring mission. However, EU was not trying to establish special body responsible for all the assistance provided by the EC to third countries in the sphere of elections, although it noted about the need for closer coordination between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council [4, p. 5-10].

In order to strengthen the integrity of election observation, the first project «Network for Enhanced Electoral and Democratic Support (NEEDS)» was launched in 2001, followed by two similar projects. Given the success of these projects and the need to strengthen capacity and promote standards in the electoral sector, the European Commission’s Foreign Policy Instrument Service in 2012 announced the continuation of the program under the new name «Election Observation and Democratic Support (EODS)”. Within these projects, all EU election observation missions have taken place over the past 15 years.

At the invitation of the Government of Guyana, the European Union sent a mission to monitor parliamentary elections on March 19, 2001. These elections were an important step in strengthening the democracy of Guyana, which faced challenges after the 1992 transitional elections. In the same year, general elections were held in Peru and Nicaragua, where European representatives were also invited for observation. In autumn 2002, EU representatives were invited to Ecuador, where elections were announced simultaneously at all levels.

In 2003, the EU mission monitored general elections in Guatemala. In the final report on the results of election observation, the EU mission noted that there was a fragmented system of political parties in the country and a significant social strain that periodically turned into violent crimes and was accompanied by impunity. In addition, observers noted the interference of executive power in the activities of the change, which had a definite influence on the nature of coverage of all events [15, p. 13]

In 2005 and 2006, 2 missions were held to monitor the parliamentary and presidential elections in Venezuela. As stated in the final report for 2005, «Venezuela’s political life is characterized by a degree of polarization that has gradually evolved over the last decade, reaching extreme peaks during the period preceding the referendum on the impeachment of the president in 2004. The agglomeration of this polarization is not difficult to understand in the context of the political events that characterized the last twenty-five years of Venezuelan history, with long periods of poor governance and the failures of various governments that failed to adequately respond to the social division of the country’s population» [16, p. 7]. The 2006 report does not contain detailed information on socio-political issues, considered the issue of media engagement and the need for impartial coverage of information [5, p. 59].

In 2006, the EU sent an election observation mission to Bolivia, Nicaragua, Haiti and Mexico. The next few years of EU missions were present during electoral processes and referenda in Latin America in the following countries: Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador and Bolivia. In Ecuador, the mission arrived for three consecutive years — in 2007, 2008 and 2009, which was due to changes to the Constitution, numerous unsuccessful reforms and crises in the country. In the final reports of EU missions, particular attention was drawn to the access of women and indigenous peoples to the political process. The reports stated that if women could freely choose through a passive voter registration system and had the chance to be elected, in particular, through quotas, then indigenous peoples were largely excluded from the political life of the country. In addition, considerable attention was paid to the participation of civil society in monitoring the activities of parties and conducting the electoral process [12; 13; 14].

Over the past five years, European Union observers have visited Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Haiti and Paraguay. In the spring of 2016, the European Union sent a mission of observing parliamentary, presidential elections and elections to Andean Parliament that were held simultaneously on April 10 in Peru. According to the preliminary report, «the existing provisions on political financing do not include effective mechanisms for monitoring and ensuring the implementation of party funding and election campaign spending. Although the law provides for the provision of state funding to parties, such funding is not allocated in practice, which continues the dependence of political parties on private funding and contributes to the use of opaque practices «[17].

It is worth noting that election observation missions have a limited mandate, and their proposals are of a recommendatory nature. Nevertheless, most of the above-mentioned issues were also reflected in the EU regional and national programs for LAC.

In addition, the European Union provides extensive technical assistance to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular, it provides technical assistance, finances the training and raising awareness of citizens on issues related to political processes and covering much broader agenda than the electoral process itself [4, p. 14].

The question of democracy and human rights can usually be considered only if there is a solid judicial system in which every citizen can apply to the court and be sure that the rule of law is secured by binding laws and the inevitability of punishment.

For a long time, cooperation between the two regions in the area of justice has been linked to the provision of mutual legal assistance in the area of joint fights against drugs and organized crime. These issues were particularly relevant for the Latin American and Caribbean region. With the emergence of democratic consolidation and the intensification of economic reforms in Latin America, as well as the convergence of the two regions in terms of common values in the 1990s, the issue of judicial cooperation has become burning than ever.

Since the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government in 1996 in Vina del Mar, where the Ibero-American Declaration on the Integrated Development of Civil Defense and Defense was approved, almost 20 years of joint work demonstrate the interest of the partners of both regions in building a strong network of international cooperation among judiciary, which is able to withstand modern challenges.

Within the framework of the EU regional programs for the countries and organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean, the issue of the judicial system and justice has been repeatedly raised. For example, the issue of judicial reform was contained in the National Indicative Programs of the EU for Colombia for 2001-2006 and 2007-2013, similar to the program for Nicaragua for 2000-2006, and the Honduras program for 2007-2013, and the issue of justice has risen in EU cooperation with Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico [22, p. 45, 52, 73, 78, 81, 101].

In 2013, in Santiago, prior to the first EU –Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit of the Head of States and Government, EU – CELAC Judicial Summit was held. Some researchers point out that this summit was a preparatory event for the EU-CELAC summit, which took place few weeks later. The main objective of the judicial summit was the creation of an interregional forum for discussing «Common Principles on International Cooperation in the Sphere of Justice», expanding dialogue and cooperation between the judicial authorities of the two regions [8, p. 6; 23, c. 19-23]. As a result of the Summit, the «Santiago Declaration: Common Principles for Judicial Cooperation» was issued, which stated the establishment of the Judicial Forum of the Chairs of the Supreme Courts of the LAC and EU Member States [6, p. 2].

Apart from the issue of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the important issue is the establishment of ties and deepening of cooperation between civil society. Since 2002, representatives of the civil society of the EU and Mexico have met at the EU-Mexico Civil Society Forums every 2-3 years. The purpose of these forums are to promote a dialogue with the aim of further enriching the relations between Mexico and the European Union in all three areas of the global agreement: political dialogue, cooperation and trade [18].

The Fifth EU-Mexico Civil Society Forum was held on October 25-26, 2012 in Brussels (Belgium). During the event, participant discussed the progress achieved by Mexican government and civil society to establish a common civil society advisory mechanism within the framework of the Global Agreement between the European Union and Mexico [19].

As a mechanism for civil society cooperation within the framework of the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Brazil in 2007, the EU-Brazil Round Table was launched in 2009. Such a Roundtable allowed civil society representatives to contribute to the partnership. The Round Table’s conclusions are presented during the meetings of the highest level on the EU – Brazil cooperation.

In addition, since 2013, there are EU-CELAC civil society forums held on a regular basis. Thus, while civil society forum in March 2015, participants identified common strategies of civil society organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union to influence the public debate over the relevance of fair treatment and greater solidarity between the two regions [20].

The support of civil society initiatives is provided by the EU-LAC Foundation. The issue of establishing such a foundation was announced for the first time at the fifth EU-LAC summit in Lima in 2008. And only 2 years later the Foundation was established at the sixth summit in Madrid in 2010. The main objective of the Foundation is to contribute to the strengthening of the interregional partnership process with the participation of civil society and other social actors, encouraged to further mutual knowledge, understanding and vision between the two regions. In addition, a separate interregional working group was set to discuss and agree on proposals for the Foundations, and the European Commission has contributed 3 million euros to the Foundation, which allowed to implement a number of initiatives [11].

In addition, the Investment Fund for Latin America (IFLA) was launched in 2010 during the EU-LAC summit. IFLA was created by the European Commission to mobilize additional funding to Latin America in support of investment projects through the pooling of grants from the European Commission and loans from European development funding institutions. The key priorities of the Fund are: interconnectivity and energy infrastructure, including energy efficiency and renewable energy, transport, environment, support for private sector development, including small and medium enterprises.

The Investment Fund has three interconnected and complementary strategic objectives: improving interconnections, in particular through better energy and transport infrastructure, between and within Latin American countries; enhancing environmental protection and focusing on improving control over the effects of climate change; promoting equitable and sustainable socio-economic development by improving social infrastructure and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises [24, c. 42]

In addition to the above-mentioned areas of cooperation, there is strong cooperation between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean in the economic sphere. The private sector plays a key role in strengthening sustainable development and creating job markets globally.

The issue of cooperation between the business communities of the two regions was first raised at the first EU — LAC summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1999. Declaration as the result of the summit contained provisions for launching of joint business forums to analyze issues of mutual interest, and, where appropriate, submit recommendations for consideration by high officials of the two regions [21, p. 4]

The EU — MERCOSUR Business Forum in Lisbon in 2007 identified obstacles in the negotiation process between the parties. There were important issues regarding the scope and scope of tariff liberalization in the course of negotiations on industrial goods and the definition of rules of origin, as well as the elimination of export taxes and the asymmetry in the elimination of tariffs. In agriculture, there were a number of market-related uncertainties, such as tariffs, quotas, volumes, and issues related to sanitary and phytosanitary measures [7, c. 41-43].

In January 2013, representatives of the two regions gathered at the first EU-LAC Economic Forum, the main issues of which were macroeconomic policies, the labor market, regional integration, income inequalities, and the growing problems faced by the two regions. The same year, the EU-LAC Business Forum was held in May again. During the forum entitled «New Consolidation Forces — Succeeding in Latin America,» world business leaders, leading politicians, leading scholars and entrepreneurs discussed key issues of cooperation and trends in the development of interregional EU-Latin America relations [8].

In 2015, in parallel with the EU – CELAC Summit, the second business forum took place. The main focus was on the development of small and medium-sized businesses.

In addition, there are regular meetings of leaders of trade unions in the EU and Latin American and Caribbean countries. In 2005, the Commission proposed the establishment of an EU-LAC Social Forum to be held every two years [10]. 2010 was full of alike meetings, like energy forum (on alternative energy sources), an information society forum, a forum on social cohesion.

Creation of «common zones», despite the geographical remoteness of the regions, can be considered as a special instrument of cooperation between the EU and the LAC. In 2002 the Action Plan for the construction of the Common Higher Education Area between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean was developed and approved [9, p. 5]. Over the last few years, new mechanisms have been created for interaction between research programs and projects, such as the Twinning Institution Building Tool, and synergy in different areas, which may give a new impetus to the relationship between the two regions.

In April 2008, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in which it proposed to create of a Euro-Latin American global interregional zone by 2012. It was planned to be done in two stages — by signing free trade agreements with MERCOSUR, the Andean Community, and then signing a global interregional agreement. However, due to a number of reasons, such a zone was never created.


It should be noted that thematic cooperation has different forms. The traditional meetings on the high level are supplemented by technical assistance and more informal. The practice of informal cooperation has been accompanied by all the events of the EU-LAC dialogue since the early 1990s and has been actively developing over the past years. EU is placing a focus on assistance to the Latin America and the Caribbean in the sphere of democracy and good governance. By deploying election monitoring missions and providing expert support in judiciary, the EU is sharing the best practices in these spheres with the LAC. At the same time, civil society and business associations are also taking an active part in in the interregional dialogue. The most powerful mechanisms of such cooperation are the holding of joint forums and meetings, which serve as a discussion platform for implementation of agreements reached on the higher levels and provide recommendations for further cooperation.


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