Speech of President Charles Michel at the opening ceremony of the EU-CELAC summit
It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to Brussels and to return your warm hospitality from the last two summits I had the privilege to participate in – in Mexico and Argentina. And I would like to thank the current and former presidents of CELAC, Prime Minister Gonsalves and President Fernández for our close cooperation to set the stage for a successful summit.
The Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, once said: “Contrary to love, friendship does not require frequency”. Today’s meeting is proof of that. It has been eight years since our last EU-CELAC summit. But I can feel – and we can feel – the energy, the excitement, and yes, the friendship between our continents. Today the world is very different from 2015. In the past few years, we have seen the ravages of climate change, a global pandemic and now the war against Ukraine.
Today climate change is grabbing our planet by the throat. And our planet is fighting for every breath: boiling temperatures; raging wildfires; massive floods. Countries on your continent and ours, threatened by dramatically rising sea levels – like in the Caribbean. Together, we need to act urgently and decisively.
COVID-19 hit our continents hard. No matter where we live – in Rome or Mexico City, Warsaw or Rio de Janeiro – we felt the ravages. Our societies and economies scarred by the lockdowns, driving up inequality and pushing the world’s poorest deeper into debt.
There is another big difference between today and 2015. As we speak, a permanent member of the UN Security Council is attacking a neighbouring country. Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine is a tragedy for Ukraine and for the world, with devastating consequences for food security, energy prices and the global economy. This war blatantly violates the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. And the vast majority of countries in the UN General Assembly have voted on multiple resolutions to condemn this illegal war. Every country on this planet must be safe. That’s why Russia must not be allowed to succeed. It will be a recipe for disaster for multilateralism and our rules-based system.
We also need to make our international financial system more just. The current system is simply not fair. So we want to engage more with all of you to reform the international financial architecture, to close the gap between rich and poor. The recent Paris Summit for a New Global Financing Pact helped to develop new ideas. And Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados and UN Secretary-General Guterres have been strong advocates for this. You can count on the EU.
We believe in a multi-polar world. We don’t want a bi-polar world, because this often comes at a cost for our interests and our autonomy. But we must never forget who we are and what we represent. The leaders here today represent one billion people and over 20% of global GDP. We share common roots, values, culture, and deep economic and social links. And we are a powerful force in the UN General Assembly – defending democracy, multilateralism and human rights.
We are also close trade and investment partners, with massive untapped potential. We can do so much more together for the good of both our continents and our people.
The challenges we face are urgent and complex. We cannot allow another eight years for our next summit. More regular summits – every two years – and a permanent coordination mechanism will ensure consistent progress. By banding together, we can develop clean economies that are good for our planet and a digital transformation that powers forward our economies and societies. And most importantly, always at the service of people’s well-being, a human-centred economic model. To make a success of our green and digital transformations, we need an ambitious investment agenda. We need partnerships for transformative projects that promote our Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.
Lastly, this summit should help us to move forward in the trade agreements with Chile, Mexico and Mercosur. These trade deals have the potential to bring us closer together. And to strengthen our ties, especially with today’s rising tensions and disrupted supply chains.
Today we are breathing new life into the bond that connects our two continents. Guided by our belief in democracy, individual liberties and fair societies, together we can make the world more peaceful and more prosperous. Thank you.