I am so happy to welcome you to the EU-LAC Youth, Civil Society, and Local Authorities Forum, just ahead of the Summit between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean – the first Summit in eight years.
We meet during a period of profound global change.
Global temperatures are set to break records in the next five years.
Digital innovation brings unprecedented opportunities and risks.
COVID-19 exposed global inequalities and reversed the progress made towards the 2030 Agenda.
And Russia‘s war of aggression against Ukraine hampers global economic recovery and threatens geopolitical stability.
Latin America and the Caribbean and the EU share a long history of partnership. It is rooted in values, vibrant people-to-people relations, and strong trade ties.
Our partnership must now evolve to reflect challenges of today so that we tackle them together.
I have three messages today.
First, together, the EU and the Latin American and Caribbean countries account for nearly one third of UN members.
We share a strong commitment to the fair, green, and digital transition – and we respect and support the value of effective multilateral cooperation.
The Summit represents a pivotal opportunity to reinvigorate our partnership.
We can strengthen our trade agenda.
We can reduce inequalities.
We can advance peace, security, justice and human rights.
In order to make this leap, the EU is putting forward a positive offer with the Global Gateway strategy. This brings me to my second point.
Global Gateway will leverage quality EU public and private investments to meet the infrastructure and reindustrialisation needs of the LAC region.
These investments drive the triple transition and provide decent jobs and services in the society.
Together we will for example promote sustainable forestry and bring inclusive 5G and last-mile connectivity to areas that need it most.
Our alliance builds on equality, dialogue, and respect for our common values and social cohesion. It is a partnership that benefits first and foremost the people.
In that perspective, I am happy to announce today our new EUR 60 million action on Inclusive and Equal Societies.
This action is part of our Team Europe engagement in the region, bringing together the EU, Member States, financial institutions, and the private sector.
Through the action, we foster social cohesion and tackle inequalities by investing in social policies, education, and skills development. We create regional and bi-regional networks that facilitate collaboration on social inclusion and protection systems, social innovation and just transitions.
And we place special emphasis on women, vulnerable populations and the poorest 40%.
Finally, our partnership for and of the people begins here – with this forum.
As young people, members of civil society, and representatives of local authorities you know best the communities you represent.
Your partnership is therefore essential to respond to both the challenges and opportunities before us – and to tailor our efforts to local contexts.
Over the next two days, you will discuss the Summit priorities in detail.
Each of the sessions will lead to conclusions and recommendations, feeding straight into the Summit.
Because you understand best the political and economic realities on the ground and you play a vital role in strengthening our relations.
I hope that this Forum leads to a successful Summit and to many years of mutually beneficial partnership.
Earlier today, in a meeting with youth, I learned about key concerns and ideas for empowering youth as we deploy the Youth Action Plan for EU External Action.
I expect youth from both sides of the Atlantic to continue to collaborate well beyond the end of this Summit.
I also look forward to ongoing and enhanced dialogue with civil society and local authorities. Towards that end, we will launch a Global Gateway Civil Society and Local Authorities Dialogue Platform in the coming months.
I hope many of you will participate!
Above all, I hope that everyone here today – whether you are from Latin America, the Caribbean, or Europe – continues to drive change. Because you can.
Our regions have been natural partners for decades.
Let’s work together now to become partners of choice.