(3 February 2011) The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, met senior officials from the European Union (EU) this week in Brussels to exchange views on how to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between the two regions.
During her three-day visit to the Belgian capital, home to the main EU institutions, Bárcena met with the Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont, highlighting the importance of renewing and strengthening the strategic relationship that began in 1999 with the first Summit of Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean and the EU.
Bárcena described the challenges facing Latin America and the Caribbean in terms of achieving development, and underlined the importance of Europe in the region and of the region in Europe.
In several working meetings, the Executive Secretary of ECLAC presented the main conclusions from the Commission's recent report "Time for equality: closing old gaps, blazing new trails", which provides a new roadmap for Latin American and Caribbean development.
"Latin American and Caribbean countries turned in an excellent performance in 2010, with a growth rate of 6%, and projected growth of 4.2% for this year. However, there are still major gaps in terms of inequality, social spending, investment in development, tax systems and productivity, among others", stated Bárcena.
The region's countries require a better State to redistribute, regulate and oversee, while being part of a new relationship between State, market and society, she explained.
In terms of the trade relations between Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe, Bárcena pointed out that by the middle of this decade China could replace the EU as the region's second largest trading partner after the United States, and she therefore called for the ties of this economic relationship to be strengthened, on the basis of trade with value added, technical innovation and increased productivity and sustainability.
ECLAC has become a natural facilitator of political dialogue between the two regions. The Commission actively supports the Summits of Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean and the EU, which are held every two years. This was recognized by representatives of the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) in a meeting held at the Chilean Mission to the European Union, as Chile has the Presidency of the Group.
The European Commission, which is the EU's executive body, is one of ECLAC's main partners in terms of cooperation. The Commission is currently implementing five projects funded by the EU to support strategic areas such as information technologies, taxation and social inclusion.
In Brussels, Bárcena also met with the Spanish European parliamentarian, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, Chair of the Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly.
The Executive Secretary of ECLAC also highlighted the main messages of the document "Time for equality: closing old gaps, blazing new trails" to the Council of the European Union and the Development and Co-operation Directorate-General (DG DEVCO).
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