President. – The next item is the debate on the report by Ricardo Cortés Lastra, on behalf of the Committee on Development, on defining a new development cooperation with Latin America (2011/2286(INI)) (A7-0159/2012).
Ricardo Cortés Lastra, rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, in the context of the current negotiation process for the next development cooperation instrument (DCI) for 2014-2020, the report I am presenting today wishes to send a clear message to the Council and the Commission: Latin America cannot, and must not, be cast aside.
The Commission’s message is clear: many Latin American countries have achieved their growth targets, and must therefore be considered as graduates of development aid. However, while the region has experienced an unquestionable phase of growth, we are talking about one of the regions with the greatest inequality in the world, a region that is home to 41% of the poorest people on the planet, a region where 52 million people live on less than USD 2 a day and where some countries have malnutrition rates above 20%.
These figures reflect the other reality of Latin America, and that is where the EU continues to have a vital role to play in the region. In this context of an economically strong Latin America that is capable of fighting for its own development, the EU only has to continue supporting the region where we are needed.
We do not support the radical approach proposed by the Commission, which bases differentiation solely on economic criteria, which means that countries such as Ecuador, Colombia and Peru come out of our ‘envelope’ of bilateral aid, and that, surprisingly, it maintains cooperation with a country such as South Africa, with similar or even better economic and social data than Ecuador or Peru.
Yes, Commissioner, we are concerned by the discriminatory treatment of Latin America in your proposal. We therefore ask for responsible differentiation that takes into account other indicators, such as the poverty, vulnerability and European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) crisis index, and the Gini coefficient. It is also essential that the next development cooperation instrument fulfils its objective of eradicating poverty, and we therefore ask that it add value to the EU’s development cooperation policy by implementing cooperation to suit each country and region, with the aim of maximising our financial efforts and the effectiveness of our aid, thus avoiding sending a harsh political message to our partners in Latin America.
We support a change of focus for our cooperation that consolidates the economic and social achievements of Latin America; a new focus that implies responsibility that must be shared and supported by the countries of the region, encouraging more efficient fiscal and taxation policies and promoting basic social services, investment in science, technology and innovation, and combating insecurity among the population.
Effective cooperation also means directing our resources towards the most vulnerable. The report therefore asks for the volume of the development cooperation instrument for Latin America to be maintained and for any possible reallocation of funds to benefit the less developed countries in the same region. The current Commission proposal removes 11 Latin American countries from bilateral cooperation. We do not support this radical approach and ask for the redirection of the development cooperation instrument.
Santiago Fisas Ayxela (PPE). – (ES) Mr President, I would first of all like to congratulate Mr Cortés Lastra on his excellent report. Latin America is one of the regions of the world that has grown the most in recent years. As its largest global donor, the European Union has made a significant contribution to that development, and this is not the time to suddenly cut off our aid, but rather to do so gradually, so that those countries can consolidate their rule of law and continue to reduce their poverty figures.
We need to maintain the levels of cooperation aid to Latin America as, despite achieving regional growth figures of more than 4%, it has the largest pockets of poverty in the world and the greatest levels of economic and social inequality. The European Union and Latin America share common values and interests and must move forward together in order to face up to the global challenges facing our societies, which are now more interdependent than ever.
Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE). – (PT) Mr President, I would first like to congratulate Mr Cortés Lastra for this inclusive focus on the economic, social and territorial growth of Latin America. Under no circumstances will we settle, nor vote, for a proposal so minimal that it will be detrimental to the rights acquired and to the cooperation assistance given so far, because we look at Latin America differently at a time when it has shown extraordinary signs of social growth and progress, even if these are not enough to counter the poverty and social exclusion that exists. We also agree that the indigenous peoples throughout Latin America should be recognised and given support to increase their participation.
João Ferreira (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Mr President, some of the most interesting and exciting social transformation processes in the world are currently taking place in Latin America. Breaking with the neoliberalism that has ruled the region for decades, along with the IMF’s structural adjustment programmes and the dramatic impact these have had, has allowed different countries to move forward with progress and social justice. Their economic growth rates are reasonable, even given the global crisis, social inequality is falling and social rights are advancing, unlike here, where the opposite is happening. Inevitably there are failings and delays in some areas, which cannot be ignored. This situation places new demands and challenges on development cooperation. As various countries have been suggesting, it is time to redirect the European Union’s cooperation policies, moving from an existentialist vision involving paternalism and, on occasion, interference and the imposition of political and economic models, towards greater support and cooperation in areas such as training, science and technology, while respecting the legitimate choices and sovereignty of the peoples.
Kinga Gál (PPE). – (HU) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, in connection with the report just presented, I would like to say a few words about the role and importance of human rights in the bilateral relations of the EU. It is of exceptional importance to ensure that respect for, and protection of, human rights is a crucial element and an inevitable condition in all forms of cooperation agreements. This especially holds true if a country is violating the human rights of EU citizens. I am thinking here specifically about the example of Bolivia and the case of Előd Tóásó, who has been on remand in Bolivia since 16 April 2009, whereas, even according to current Bolivian laws, this provisional status can no longer be maintained, having expired on 16 April. Tóásó has still not been released. His right to a fair trial is being violated. I would therefore like to ask the competent bodies of the EU to take human rights into account when signing these agreements.
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). – (SK) Mr President, Latin America is a region with gradually increasing economic growth. Despite the rather optimistic economic forecasts, however, more than 180 million people there still live below the poverty line. The involvement of European policy in Latin America must therefore continue to take account of the specific conditions of economic development. We spoke this afternoon about how the new Commission proposal changing the structure and criteria for providing general tariff preferences may have a negative impact on this region, and we recommended that the Commission make appropriate modifications to the submitted proposal. I firmly believe that we can continue to have a positive influence on the further development of Latin America through an appropriate policy of sensitive partner communications combined with tariff relief or material assistance linked to support for the civilian conduct of society.
Franz Obermayr (NI). – (DE) Mr President, the national economies of Latin America were hit less hard by the economic crisis than other parts of the globe. For 2012, an economic growth rate of 4.5% is even forecast. Despite all the growth forecasts, however, roughly 180 million people in the region live below the poverty line and, according to the United Nations, the biggest inequalities in the world are still to be found among the 15 states. Moreover, with 25 homicides per 100 000 residents, Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the world.
The EU is not only the largest donor of development aid, it is also the biggest investor and the second largest trading partner. In this position, what is necessary, in particular, is to cement the rule of law, but also to tackle the terrible problem of poverty. Key areas in this regard are health and education, but also the small and medium-sized enterprises sector. Support for these enables people to help themselves, and the EU can use its influence in this region on a positive and sustainable basis.
End of the catch-the-eye procedure
Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, this report comes at the most appropriate time in the process of identifying the future EU cooperation framework, as well as the key issues of our relations with Latin American countries. It will serve as an important contribution to the discussions on the proposed external financial instruments and will be an important pillar for the definition of the region’s strategic priorities. In view of this, the Commission notes that the main recommendations of the report are closely in line with our current and, in particular, our future views for cooperating with the Latin American region.
As the rapporteur affirms, Latin America is a region of heterogeneous countries of wide diversity. This is also true from a needs perspective. The past decade has seen unprecedented growth levels in the region. Many of the middle-income countries now have the necessary means and solid bases from which they can build their national development plans. Indeed, we have been approached, on a number of occasions, by various developing countries which expressed the desire to move away from pure poverty alleviation programmes towards a wider development cooperation agenda.
This is exactly what we describe in the Agenda for Change Communication and also with the proposed external financial instruments. We need to concentrate the scarce resources available where they are needed most and where they will have the greatest impact. This does imply that the more advanced developing countries would graduate out of bilateral assistance and cooperation.
However, this also means that we would engage in a different kind of development relationship with these countries, based on the facilitation of investment projects, for example, through blending mechanisms and regional programmes, as well as taking advantage of their experience through trilateral or South-South cooperation.
To further underpin the relations with the more advanced countries, we also count on the newly proposed partnership instrument, through which we hope to bring our relations to yet higher and more sophisticated levels.
Regardless of the differentiation applied in the development cooperation instrument, it is the Commission’s intention to commit a significant level of funding to the Latin American region under this instrument which, combined with the availability of different external cooperation instruments and programmes, will enable us to define the most appropriate strategy for each individual country in the region in line with the EU’s continued commitment to policy coherence for development, which is also mentioned in the report.
As for the process of defining these strategies, the principal priority areas identified by the report are very much in line with those identified in Annex IV(B) of the Commission proposal on the development cooperation instrument.
To conclude, the EU will continue to be actively and significantly engaged in the Latin American region. However, our relations with the region are maturing. They have changed from that of donor beneficiary solidarity to one of equal partners. The proposed external financial instruments should give us sufficient flexibility and scope and, at the same time, the necessary concentration and focus to develop effective cooperation strategies with each individual Latin American country.
In so doing, the EEAS and the Commission count on a contribution from the European Parliament. We are happy to note that the report presented recognises many of the same challenges and priority areas as those identified by us during the preparation of the legislative proposal on the development cooperation instrument.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Tuesday, 12 June, at 12.00.
Written statements (Rule 149)
Vladko Todorov Panayotov (ALDE), in writing. – The EU has privileged relations with Latin American countries. Indeed, not only is the EU the first investor and the first provider of public development aid in the region, the historical and cultural links between the two continents also appear to be extremely solid and reaffirmed from both sides. Moreover, thanks to a sustainable growth, the continent is only moderately affected by the financial, economic and social crisis and has achieved significant progress in terms of democracy. These achievements are narrowing the gaps between the two continents. Our continents are thusly bounded and also very complementary. Prospects are that Latin America will become more and more a strategic partner for the EU. That is why we need to pursue cooperation and development policies with a highlight on industry aspects, insisting on technology exchange, on the one hand, and raw materials trade agreements, on the other. This type of collaboration would solve a large part of both continent’s structural problems. It is crucial that the EU does not cultivate the subordinate role of Latin America and manages to make this industrial partnership a priority in the framework of a more relevant type of cooperation.
Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE), in writing. – (PL) We should continue to be very interested in cooperation on development with Latin America. Although the countries of the region have been successful, in fighting poverty for example, and despite the fact that they reported average GDP growth in 2011, their situation is still far from satisfactory. The main objectives of continued cooperation should be support for the countries of Latin America in combating the problem of poverty and promoting sustainable social and economic development. Although the national economies of these countries have been affected by the crisis to a lesser extent than countries in other parts of the world, there are still 180 million people in Latin America living below the poverty line. On top of this, there are questions of social inequality and improper administration, and this threatens the process of development in these countries. Our support is important because Latin America’s middle-income countries are a driving force for regional integration and this leads, in turn, to a better economic and social situation for low income countries in the same region. The EU and Latin America base their partnership on respect for shared values and fundamental liberties, as a result of which the duty to respect human rights has become very important for the countries of the region, and the EU’s withdrawal from the partnership may lead to greater numbers of violations in this area. When establishing the new cooperation strategy, we should take account of the relevant needs and priorities of each of the countries involved.