18 June 2015
Covering Bets, Hoping for the Best: the CELAC-EU Summit

For the majority of Western corporate news media the recent summit in Brussels between the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the European Union never happened. Certainly, none of the leading English language media covered it. So in that sense, the summit was as much of a ghost as the innumerable other ghosts that haunted it unmentioned, the millions of victims of colonial genocide and slavery on which Europe's prosperity was built.

Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa addresses the press at the close of the EU-CELAC Summit in Brussels, June 11, 2015.

Ignoring those inconvenient ghosts, the summit issued a final declaration titled "Shaping our common future: working together for prosperous, cohesive and sustainable societies for our citizens". Ambiguities and equivocations proliferate in the language of this declaration,for example its avoidance of any direct mention of Argentina and Great Britain's dispute over the Malvinas.

But perhaps the great unmentionable question for the summit in Brussels was whether Europe is capable of learning from the unquestioned global moral and political leadership achieved in recent years by Latin America and the Caribbean. For the moment, the answer is definitely negative. With the summit barely over, a British government representative was meddling in the territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela.

The summit covered many areas of global importance like climate change, the imperative for world peace and defense of international law, respect for sovereignty and non-intervention. But the often insipid and unconvincing language of the final declaration scarcely conceals the fundamental and very concrete differences between the two regions.

Latin America and the Caribbean form a region making very significant economic and political progress on behalf of its peoples. Latin America in particular has managed to survive the global economic crisis with better indicators of growth, poverty reduction and diminution of inequality than either Europe or the United States. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have also been leaders in promoting world peace and the resolution of conflicts by means of dialogue.

By contrast, the European Union is regressing via anti-humanitarian austerity policies that have massively increased poverty and inequality. Similarly, European Union countries' foreign policy has been characterized by vicious military aggression of the kind condemned at the Nuremberg trials and, too, by outright support for terrorist organizations, first in Libya, now in Syria.

It is certainly worth noting once more the notorious comment by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, who once said publicly, 'When it becomes serious, you have to lie'.

Much comment has focused on the summit's support for an end to the genocidal blockade of the United States' government against Cuba. In that regard the final declaration confirms the EU's long standing position against the US embargo but perhaps more importantly, also confirms that Cuba and the EU hope to conclude a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, replacing the long-discredited EU common position.

On Venezuela, the text of the final declaration reads, "Reiterating our rejection of coercive measures of unilateral character with extraterritorial effect that are contrary to international law, we reaffirm our commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes. We take note of the Special Declaration of CELAC on unilateral actions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, of 29th of January 2015, and the CELAC Communique in solidarity of 26th of March 2015."

That's all. The declaration clearly leaves open the option to governments like that of Spain's prime minister Rajoy to continue its heavily critical policy against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. It may be also worth recalling that, in 2009, the European Union cut US$45 million of development cooperation funding to Nicaragua, basing its decision on false claims of electoral fraud by Nicaragua's political opposition. Nothing in the declaration itself seems to rule out similar arbitrary repressive measures in future.

On Colombia, the Brussels Declaration clearly welcomes the continuing peace talks but leaves open the question of why the EU's stated "commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes" does not extend to Syria, where EU member states are directly involved in supplying and training terrorist groups fighting the legitimate Syrian government.

Perhaps it was through frustration at the way the language of the Brussels Declaration left so much open to multiple interpretations that the Nicaraguan government insisted on incorporating three comments into it. It was the only country to do so.

Two of the comments express very specific reservations in relation firstly to impunity for crimes against humanity and secondly with regard to the global arms trade. The third comment is essentially a veiled criticism of the European Union for insisting on its criteria with regard to citizen security in Central America.

On the issue of impunity, the Nicaraguan government very diplomatically questions the commitment of the European Union to fight impunity and the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court when the EU's own recent leaders include individuals regarded by much of world opinion as guilty of serial crimes against humanity from Serbia to Iraq and Afghanistan to Libya and Syria.

In relation to the global arms trade, Nicaragua questions the seriousness and effectiveness of the Arms Trade Treaty in particular with regard to the supply of light weaponry to non-State actors. Here, it is worth remembering how France and Britain armed terrorists as part of NATO's destruction of Libya and too how the same countries have supported their allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in supplying arms to terrorist groups attacking the legitimate government of Syria.

Finally, in response to the Declaration's clause 48 welcoming the EU’s adoption of its Citizen Security Strategy for Central America and the Caribbean, Nicaragua's government comments, "The Government of Nicaragua considers that the Citizen Security Strategy for Central America and the Caribbean (ESCA) is the only binding instrument for the development of regional security in Central America."

Without saying so, that comment effectively appears to imply that this point in the declaration tends to contradict the European Union countries commitment elsewhere in the Declaration to respect the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries.

No doubt, Nicaragua's comments inserted into the summit's final declaration reflect just a few of the reservations held by several of the participating Latin American and Caribbean governments, especially the ALBA country governments.

In any case, the next major formal test of the European Union countries commitment to fulfilling the aspirations expressed in the Brussels Declaration will be the Climate Change Summit in Paris at the end of this year. There may be grounds for optimism in that the remarks on climate change were probably the best elaborated of all the clauses in the Brussels Declaration.

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"Tortilla con Sal is an anti-imperialist collective based in Nicaragua producing information in various media on national, regional and international affairs. In Nicaragua, we work closely with grass roots community organizations and cooperatives. We strongly support the policies of sovereign national development and regional integration based on peace and solidarity promoted by the member countries of ALBA."

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