The European Commission has adopted two major decisions for its regional cooperation with Latin America. First of all it has developed a five-year regional strategy. The priority operations under this programme are the promotion of regional integration by strengthening civil society networks, a social initiative for helping to reduce inequalities and a programme for preventing natural disasters. The regional indicative budget is EUR 250 million. The second decision concerns a high-level study award programme, with a budget of EUR 45 million for the first phase 2002-05 (Alßan).
Welcoming the approval of this programme by the Commission, the Member of the Commission with special responsibility for external relations, Chris Patten, stated: “This ambitious programme is a visible expression of the strengthening of the bi-regional partnership, as initiated at the European Union/Latin America Summit in Rio in 1999, which was followed by the Madrid Summit in May 2002. It is also one of the responses by the European Commission for helping the Latin American countries to face up to the double challenge of economic transformation which will make their economies more competitive while at the same time ensuring the stability of the democratic institutions and the modernisation of government administration”.
There are major differences in the degree of development between the Latin American countries and within the individual countries. The two major challenges resulting from globalisation concern regional integration and the reduction of poverty, which affects 40% of the population. The objective is to contribute to the region's economic and political development, while endeavouring to reduce social inequalities, so that economic growth is more fairly distributed. The focus is on two priority forms of action:
The strengthening of the partnership between the civil society networks of the two regions:
By launching new programmes:
;@lis: the promotion of the information society. This programme has a budget of EUR 67.5 million and was already announced in December 2001(1); it will be launched by Erkki Liikanen, the Member of the Commission with special responsibility for enterprise and the information society, in Seville, on 26 April.
Alâan: A new high-level programme of study awards to enable 3 900 Latin American students and research workers to come and study and to conduct research in European universities. This will provide greater access to European universities in order to promote the modernisation of Latin America's political, economic, social, education and cultural structures. In the first phase 2002-05, Alâan has a budget of EUR 45 million. The programme is to run up to 2010 with a total of EUR 88 million. The programme will be launched officially by the Member of the Commission with special responsibility for external relations, Chris Patten, in Madrid on 16 May.
By continuing existing programmes:
URB-AL: A decentralised cooperation programme in which 1 200 towns take part in the two regions with the aim of developing direct, sustainable links between local communities.(2)
ATLAS: A project for supporting relations between the Chambers of Commerce of the two regions, in order to facilitate transfers of know-how between the CCI (200 chambers concerned EUR 6 million).
AL-Invest: the promotion of trade and investment by facilitating meetings between small and medium-sized enterprises in the two regions (EUR 40 million).
ALFA: Cooperation between universities (EUR 27 million).
Initiative for reducing social inequalities (EUR 30 million):
The objective of this initiative is to improve the capacity of Latin American administrations to develop social policies (taxation, public expenditure and health system in particular) and to combat the exclusion of certain population groups. This objective will be pursued through the following activities:
* Development of databases on the least favoured sectors of the population through surveys and censuses
* Development of a methodology applicable to public expenditure as a pilot scheme
* Identification of policies targeted at the poor
* Training and dissemination schemes
Strengthening natural disaster prevention and preparedness and ensuring the rapid implementation of rehabilitation and reconstruction operations (EUR 40 million), in particular through:
* machinery which will enable Community funds to be made available for rehabilitation and reconstruction
* support for schemes to disseminate and promote successful experiences
* the compiling of a directory of national and regional civil protection organisations in Latin America and Europe, an inventory of aid sources and a handbook with guidelines on cooperation in the event of disaster.
* Training and information exchange schemes between competent authorities.
As a back-up an observatory of EU-Latin America relations will be developed, in order to create a network of institutes in the two regions to monitor the agenda of EU-Latin American and multilateral relations, and subregional topics (EUR 1.5 million).
In addition, the creation of a network of administrations responsible for the sustainable management of energy is planned for 2005/06 (EUR 20 million).
The regional strategy complements the cooperation activities developed at subregional and national level with the Latin American countries. It takes account in particular of the thematic priorities in the areas of democracy and human rights, environmental conservation, drug abuse control and support for NGO activities. It is also intended to complement Community cooperation activities conducted in the past and those of the main donors in the region.
The European Community is the only institution which conducts bi-regional cooperation in Latin America. This document is the first in a series of strategies involving the countries and subregions of Latin America (Central America, Andean countries and Mercosur).
17 countries are covered by the regional strategy: Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.
(2) In its new phase (2000-05), URB-AL has a budget of EUR 50 million. These funds were obtained under previous agreements