Increasing Europe's Stake in the Andes
Increasing Europe's Stake in the Andes
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Briefing 6 / Latin America & Caribbean 6 minutes

Increasing Europe's Stake in the Andes

The five states that comprise the Community of Andean Nations (CAN) -- Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela -- all face serious crises that taken together call the stability of the entire region into question.

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I. Overview

The five states that comprise the Community of Andean Nations (CAN) -- Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela -- all face serious crises that taken together call the stability of the entire region into question. Ironically, the only one of the five where forcing the elected president from office is not the primary focus of political activity is Colombia, which is ravaged by a decades-long civil war.

The European Union (EU) should play a more substantial role in helping the CAN achieve stability and deepen its regional integration.[fn]The Community of Andean Nations (CAN) includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.Hide Footnote  Europe has demonstrated at home how to solve regional problems with a regional approach. A truly Andean cooperation strategy that incorporated the programs of its member states could give the European Union contribution far greater impact than the sum of its individual donor parts. The joint EU-CAN declaration at the Latin America (LAC) summit in Guadalajara on 28-29 May 2004 seemed to advance that objective but whether there is substance behind the rhetoric is open to serious question.

Since present Andean integration lacks cohesion and depth, such an EU strategy could enhance the chances for regional stability. Core objectives --strengthening democracy, protecting human rights, and reducing social inequality, exclusion and poverty -- should be paralleled by support for better security and law enforcement and more effective governance. The objective should be to define a strategic framework that complements rather than competes with U.S. efforts in the region.

The obstacles to stronger CAN-EU relations are primarily political and institutional. On the CAN side, there is still a great deal to be done to achieve regional integration. Although the Andean Pact was adopted in 1969[fn]Acuerdo de Integracion Subregional Andino, "Acuerdo de Cartagena", 26 May 1969.Hide Footnote  and updated in the late 1990s,[fn]Establishment of the General Secretariat, Council of Presidents and the Foreign Ministers Council in August 1997.Hide Footnote the five members still tend to seek solutions to their economic, political and social problems through bilateral trade negotiations or unilateral policy initiatives. Intra-regional trade has significantly increased since the 1970s but is still small in absolute terms.[fn]The CAN's share of intra-regional trade increased from 2 per cent (1970) to 12.4 per cent (1995) and has stabilised at approximately 10 per cent today. By way of comparison, in 2000, the intra-regional share of EU trade was 60 per cent and of trade between Asia Pacific Cooperation Forum states 68.6 per cent. ECLAC, "Avance y Vulnerabilidad de la integración Economica de América Latina y el Caribe", Santiago de Chile, 2003; IDB, "Beyond Borders", Washington DC, 2002.Hide Footnote

An example of the obstacles to regional integration is the de facto free-trade negotiation between Colombia, Ecuador and Peru on the one hand and the U.S. on the other, which omits Venezuela and Bolivia. Likewise, the call of political leaders for increased regional security cooperation often has not been matched by actions. Thus, Colombia launched a large military offensive against the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) along its southern border with Ecuador (Plan Patriota) without informing the Ecuadorian authorities. In short, when their national interests are at stake, the Andean nations prefer walking separate paths or linking up with large external powers instead of cooperating with their neighbours.

The Andean region has not been a priority for the EU or its member states. Trade and investment flows are small in comparison to those within the EU or those between the EU and the U.S. or the Asia-Pacific region. The EU appears to be under the impression it has little of its own to offer in a part of the world where the U.S. presence is overwhelming.[fn]ICG interviews, Brussels 27 May, Bogotá, 31 May 2004.Hide Footnote This notwithstanding, the EU and its member states combined are the largest humanitarian aid and development cooperation donors to the CAN, and the Andean region is the only one in the world with which the EU has a special high-level dialogue on drugs.[fn]The CAN receives almost a third of all allocations to Latin America from the EU budget (from 1999 to 2002, this amounted to €843 million).Hide Footnote

With a view to strengthening and institutionalising relations, the EU and the CAN signed an agreement in Rome on 15 December 2003 that extends the scope of political dialogue and cooperation beyond traditional preoccupations such as democracy and poverty, to the new common priorities of drugs and terrorism. However, tensions on human rights, security and trade have not disappeared. In varying degrees, the fissures within each Andean society, and between them, complicate the relationship with Europe. 

Despite efforts by some member states and the European Commission, the EU is often still perceived as the empty chair by Andean leaders. With the launching of its Plan Colombia in 2000 and the Andean Regional Initiative in 2001, the U.S. reaffirmed its economic, political and military dominance in the region. The involvement of several European states, alongside Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela, in the failed Colombian peace processes with the FARC and the ELN during the administration of Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) produced frustration and some resentment in Europe.[fn]See below and ICG Latin America Report Nº1, Colombia's Elusive Quest for Peace, 26 March 2002.Hide Footnote

In a joint communiqué, issued during the Guadalajara summit,[fn]The Guadalajara summit was preceded by similar events in Rio de Janeiro (1999) and Madrid (2002). The next EU-LAC summit is scheduled to take place in Vienna in 2006.Hide Footnote  Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in his EU presidency capacity, the presidents of Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador and the foreign ministers of Peru and Venezuela declared that the signing of an association agreement, including a free-trade area, continues to be a common strategic objective. They also welcomed progress against illicit drugs and terrorism in the region[fn]"Joint communiqué from the meeting of the EU Troika and the Heads of Sate and Government of the Andean Community", Guadalajara, 29 May 2004.Hide Footnote  and pledged to promote preferential access to the EU market for exports of nations most affected by the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, as well as the rapid ratification of the above-mentioned Rome agreement.

Clearly, commitment to more cooperation is to be welcomed. However, action must follow. CAN and EU leaders are aware they are still far from an association and free-trade agreement. The joint assessment of Andean economic integration, scheduled for the second half of 2004, should be concluded quickly.[fn]The Guadalajara communiqué states that the opening of negotiations on an association agreement will be preceded by a "joint assessment phase of the Andean Community's economic integration process" and will depend on the outcome of the Doha Development Agenda and the realisation of a sufficient level of regional economic integration. Hide Footnote  It is important to follow up earlier declarations[fn]See below.Hide Footnote  and agreements with policy measures to strengthen democratic governance and social cohesion as well as reduce poverty, combat illicit drugs and improve security and law enforcement in the whole region. Extreme poverty in the Colombian, Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Bolivian highlands is a main reason for political instability and the emergence of indigenous movements that increasingly embrace the rhetoric of violence.[fn]Aymara leader Felipe Quispe of Bolivia loudly renounced his seat in parliament on 1 June 2004, criticising parliamentarians as "stealing, not working, and lying to public opinion", and stated that he would continue his "revolutionary fight until the liberation of the Q'ullasuyo" [what the Aymaras call the central western highlands of Latin America], El Tribuno, 2 June 2004.Hide Footnote

The EU and its member states are well positioned to intensify their engagement in the Andes. They have experience and expertise on not only "soft" policies, such as poverty eradication or rule of law, but also "hard" fields of drugs trafficking and anti-terrorism.  It should be easier to overcome the rift between EU and U.S. security policies toward the region since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington and 11 March 2004 in Madrid dramatised their shared security stake.

Both Brussels and Washington are deeply worried about drug-trafficking and consumption, despite some differences in the origins of their problems and even greater differences in public acceptance of the policies to confront them. While a true partnership may be unrealistic, a complementary rather than competitive approach should be possible.

Even though the U.S. remains their most important point of foreign policy reference, the Andean countries should aim at increased coordination and cooperation with the EU. However, if they are to keep the EU-25, with its wider responsibilities in its own region, engaged, they will need to take decisive steps toward economic and political integration.[fn]In May 2003, the Commission published a communiqué on Wider Europe/New Neighbourhood outlining a new policy framework for relations with the EU's immediate neighbours to the east (Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova) and south (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and the Palestinian Authority). The declared objective is to strengthen stability, security and economic well-being in those countries in a way distinct from EU membership.Hide Footnote

Quito/Brussels, 15 June 2004

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