Old World, New World

21 May 2010 – Presseurop

The EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit, which took place this week in Madrid, was marked by the opposition of two distinct economic models. On the one hand, we have the full force of the euro crisis on one continent, where member-states are desperately battening down the hatches to avoid sinking in a storm prompted by attacks on financial markets — and there is no denying the inevitable necessity of the major economic sacrifices Europeans will now have to accept.

On the other, we have Latin America: an economically dynamic continent, which has enjoyed relatively benign treatment on the markets. The Latin American model, which is based on a complex of regional unions that have overcome fundamental ideological and political differences to conclude trade and cooperation agreements, is a far cry from the ideal of unity formulated by “the Liberator” Simón Bolívar, when the nations of Latin America embarked on their struggle for independence 200 years ago. At the same time, the current commemoration of the bi-centenary of the drive for independence will offer an opportunity for the people of the Latin America to reflect on the progress their countries have made and on the way forward for the future.

But what can a Europe in crisis and an increasingly dynamic Latin America offer each other? What can these two models contribute? Perseverance in the construction of Europe, in spite of the difficulties posed by ongoing discord, should serve as an example to Latin America, which is still marked by conflict between the relatively moderate liberalism of Brazil's President Lula and the socialism espoused by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, and Raúl Castro's Cuba.

At the same time, as Chilean writer Carlos Franz has noted in El País, the strong presence of Latin-American immigrants in Spain and the rest of Europe, should contribute to the dissemination of new ideas in their countries of origin: most notably European notions about the construction of a political union and the learning process for peaceful coexistence within democratic societies. As for Latin America, it can offer the freshness and the potential of a region where much remains to be done, and in particular a model of progress like the one adopted by Brazil, which could serve as an example for the development of other countries.

Europe should not overlook Latin America: not only because it would be a pity to neglect the many cultural and linguistic ties that exist between the two continents, but also because in the future Latin America, which now appears to be embarking on significant economic growth — although this has yet to alleviate major socio-economic inequalities that still prevail there — will become a major partner for Europe.

Sergio Cebrián

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