CELAC-EU leaders meet in shadow of European crisis

2013-01-26 22:55:07 GMT2013-01-27 06:55:07(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SANTIAGO, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- The first summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and European Union opened Saturday in Santiago, the national capital of Chile, as the European Union has been reeling from the effects of a lasting economic crisis.

Chile's president Sebastian Pinera, host of the event, held separate press conferences with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during which both European leaders pushed an agenda which has little to do with the current talks.

Rajoy, who leads a nation in an extended recession and unemployment above 26 percent, used his time to argue that "Spain is not in any condition to undertake expansive monetary policy right now, but I believe that the nations that are in shape should do so." His remarks had a clear reference to Merkel's Germany which many nations have argued should begin to lend or spend more in order to pump the European economy.

Germany is perceived as having a stranglehold over the region because the wealthier citizens of the most vulnerable nations have been sending their money there, whose banking system and economy are believed to be stable, robbing their home governments of much needed economic ballast.

In a separate press conference held here later, Merkel said "We in Germany are already doing our part with a robust currency," referring to the single euro currency for much of the EU. "Some nations simply lived beyond their means."

Eyes will also be on the U.K.'s Prime Minister David Cameron, whose ruling conservative party has been making noises about leaving the Union. Britain is currently outside the euro, which has been experiencing financial market gyrations due to the economic problems there. However, he has been discussing a referendum in his nation asking if citizens would like Britain to leave.

Within Latin America, there is less political conflict. Although Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is absent from the first CELAC-EU summit as he is recovering from cancer operation in Cuba, his vision of the region is very much alive and well, according to Analyst Eric Farnsworth with the U.S.-based Council of the Americas.

"CELAC is not following a specific Chavez-mandated agenda, but it certainly has promoted separation between Latin America and North America and so in a general way it is very consistent with Chavez's interests," he said.

Chavez helped establish CELAC at a conference held in the Mexican resort city of Cancun in 2010. He hosted its second summit in Venezuela's capital Caracas in December 2011. However, Farnsworth argues that beyond seeking to be the Organization of American States without the United States and Canada, it is unclear what its aims are.

"It was explicitly designed as an antidote to U.S. and Canadian influence and an alternative to the OAS," Farnsworth said. "But it is not really doing anything the OAS does, including supporting human rights, supporting democratic governance, attempting to build support for economic and trade integration, or a host of other things," he added.

Lacking key infrastructure and direction, its agenda is likely to be overshadowed by Europe's greater problems, he added.

More than 40 heads of state and representatives of 60 countries from both regions attended the two-day CELAC-EU Summit. Croatia, which will become a full member of the European Union in July, was invited to this conference ahead of being fully qualified.

Add Comment
Please read our Terms of Service. Messages that harass, abuse or threaten others; have obscene or otherwise objectionable content; have spam, commercial or advertising content or links may be removed.