EUROPEAN COMMISSION SUPPORTS WESTERN HEMISPHERE INTEGRATION
February 5, 1998
The European Commission on Wednesday reassured the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) that it was willing to continue supporting regional integration efforts in the Americas.
The Commission's Vice President for Latin America, Manuel Marín, speaking at a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council, declared that "over the last three years, open regionalism has proven to be the best vehicle for creating and increasing international trade flows."
Mr. Marín explained that "we are not competing with the other important negotiation taking place--hemispheric negotiations on free trade, which has its own logic, its own decision, and which will largely depend on whether or not ?fast track' succeeds."
On the immediate plans for cooperation between the European Commission and the countries of the Americas, Dr. Marín revealed that guidelines for negotiation on an agreement with Mexico will be presented in March; with Chile and Mercosur countries in June; and, for the next five years, a system of generalized preferences in agriculture and industry with the Andean countries. "The entire scheme will be consolidated in 1999 at the First Summit of Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean with the European Union," the official added.
Turning to political and economic developments in the region, Mr. Marín stated that considering what Latin America was ten or fifteen years ago, "one would realize that enormous efforts have been made over the last few years and Latin America has made very positive strides over the last five or ten years."
He warned, however, that social debt still needed to be addressed. He explained that the benefits of adjustment have not been creating a new kind of society where poverty, marginalization and internal imbalances are tackled.
"A number of Latin American countries have obviously experienced 5, 6 or 7 per cent growth rates, but much more effective redistribution policies should undoubtedly be pursued so that over the next few years the hemisphere can develop policies conducive to wealth redistribution so citizens can see that with the political and economic recovery taking place, they too have stake in the future."
The European Commission's official said Latin America and the Caribbean had an overall negative situation in drug trafficking. "Any new approach to understanding the war on drug has to be presented on the basis of the principle of shared responsibility. This is a problem that will not go away by demonizing or punishing only producer countries, but must be tackled through shared responsibility, mindful that the countries of the North, particularly those in Europe, also bear some responsibility for consumption and money laundering."
Expressing appreciation for the official's visit to the OAS headquarters, Secretary General César Gaviria underscored the "very positive" experience of collaborating with the European Commission on the elections in Nicaragua. He also thanked the Commission official for his interest in continued support for the upcoming elections in Paraguay.