Latin America has always understood itself to be a part of the Western world and the community of democratic nations, and from a cultural history perspective, Latin America is indeed part of the Western world. The history of the subcontinent is inseparably linked to the history of Europe. The continents share linguistic, religious and philosophical roots that form the basis for a living community of values. Mutual relations are marked by affinity and trust, providing the optimum foundation for a positive, long-term partnership. The subcontinent must also be viewed politically as a part of the West. Following the historical triumphs of democracy over the past two decades, all the countries of Latin America - with the exception of Cuba - now belong to the circle of democratic countries. Today, Latin America represents the world's strongest bastion of democracy among the world's developing regions. This is the primary building block on which to construct common efforts for tackling global challenges.
For Germany and Europe, therefore, Latin American is and remains important as a partner for global governance to achieve an international order based on rules. It is essential that we foster and develop this partnership in order to raise the bilateral political dialog to a new level of quality for all areas of policy. This objective is all the more important given the fact that Latin America finds itself in a phase of comprehensive change ranging from its basic understanding of democracy to the role of the subcontinent in international politics. The international situation of the subcontinent has undergone fundamental change. Some Latin American countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, are taking an increasingly independent stance in world politics.
Given the waxing presence of China (and India as well), partnership with Europe is no longer the matter of necessity for Latin America as it once was, but rather one further option available to the governments of Latin America. Because China has become an attractive alternative to Europe, Europe must today work to regain the role model status it once enjoyed. The idea of an "automatic" community of interests between Europe and Latin America is fading ever more into the background. Joint positions require thorough preparation if they are to be politically workable.
The "strategic partnership" agreed between the two regions at the first EU-Latin America summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1999 was reconfirmed by both sides during the third summit in 2004 in Guadalajara and at the fourth meeting in Vienna in 2006. Turning this "strategic partnership" into concrete action on the ground is the great challenge for the near future. The central topics of this year's summit in Lima will therefore include the promotion of social cohesion, climate protection and energy security.
As members of the Western world, the EU and Latin America realize the importance of their relations not only with one another but also with the United States. Given the reawakened interest of the US in Latin America, we should use the transatlantic relationship not only to conduct an intensive dialog with the US about Latin America and the preservation and development of democracy there, but also to work towards a trilateral dialog of equals over the medium and long term. Intensive cooperation is especially called for in stifling the drug economy, but should go beyond this and embrace all issues of international policy.
Maintaining and developing the democracies of Latin America is dependent upon combining solid economic development with the promotion of social justice. The developments seen in recent years in a number of nations are encouraging. In others, however, the gains made during the transformation processes of the past decades are at risk. Germany and the EU can and should support Latin America in pushing forward with its process of transformation. To this end, German and European foreign, economic, development and cultural policy in Latin America must become more tangible on the ground and be given a sharper profile. Germany and Europe should increasingly view the 36 countries of the region as a political partner in jointly shaping globalization, particularly in light of the fact that the existing multilateral international order often depends on organizing working majorities.
Eckart von Klaeden is a Member of the German Parliament as well as the foreign-policy spokesman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group and a member of the CDU Steering Committee. Mr. von Klaeden also serves on the Atlantic Initiative Advisory Board.
This article is a shortened version of the Latin America strategy paper of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary group entitled "Latin America Germany and Europe: Partnership for the 21st Century." The paper is available in its entirety as a PDF document: