The strengthening of the strategic partnership between the EU and Latin America and the role of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, representing one billion people in both regions, marked the opening ceremony of the sixth plenary session held today in the former Chilean Congress. The full EuroLat, which brings together more than a hundred members of parliaments of both regions, takes place until Friday in Santiago de Chile.

"Ours is no longer a paternalistic relationship, but a relationship of equals," said MEP José Ignacio Salafranca (EPP, ES), who co-chairs the EuroLat Parliamentary Assembly, at the opening ceremony. Mr Salafranca therefore advocated adapting the arrangements of the summits between the EU and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to these new conditions. This weekend (26-27 January) the first EU- CELAC Summit is to be held in Santiago de Chile.

Mr Salafranca stressed the importance of concrete achievements in the relations between the two regions, such as the signing of partnership agreements with Mexico and Chile (the latter is now ten years old) and Central America as well as the Multi-Party Trade Agreement between the EU and Colombia and Peru. "The biggest unresolved issue is now the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement", he added.

Meanwhile, the co-chair on the Latin-American side, Honduras MP Gloria Oqueli, said "We have an extraordinary commitment to democracy, peace and good in the world to represent to our people. We must further develop the issues where we can live together".

The EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, stressed Latin America's "great achievements" in terms of economic growth. She spoke of a relationship "between equals" that "goes far beyond development aid". She also stressed that "EuroLat is the voice of one billion people of the European Union and Latin America".

"The time has come for a new strategic partnership between the EU and Latin America", said the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, adding that "EuroLat is a prime example of dialogue and integration between two continents, which are separated by a great ocean, but are increasingly faced with new challenges and opportunities together".

Sixth plenary EuroLat

The fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, globalization and the financial crisis, natural disaster prevention in Europe and Latin America, transparency and corruption, food security, education and mining, are some of the issues to be addressed at the sixth plenary session of EuroLat. In addition, the Euro-Latin American Assembly will draw up recommendations to the CELAC-EU Summit in a message to be delivered to the Heads of State and Government at the opening ceremony on Saturday afternoon.

What is Eurolat?

The Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly  (EuroLat) was created in 2006 as the parliamentary  branch of the Bi-regional Strategic Association. EuroLat adopts and submits resolutions and recommendations to the various organizations, institutions and ministerial groups responsible for the development of the Strategic Association.

EuroLat is a joint multilateral Parliamentary Assembly composed of 150 members, 75 from the European Parliament and 75 from Latin America.