01/30/13 - PROGRESO WEEKLY (Miami) - The summit promises
By Elsa Claro
HAVANA â It would not be naive to recognize that the European Union (EU) has been consistent with its posture against the interference committed by a country that imposes its laws upon all others.
Ever since the Helms-Burton law was passed, Washington has been forced to periodically disable the paragraph that would sanction any of its partners who trade with Cuba. Today, with the crisis, it would be both absurd and paradoxical to engage in such an incongruous endeavor.
That, I believe, is the origin of the civilized precept that, in line with rationality and common sense, occupies a space in the Santiago Declaration, a summary of the conclusions and commitments made by the EU and the 33 Latin-Caribbean countries.
The meeting in the Chilean capital between the two integrationist blocs and its outcome set some bases for action and commitment that are very interesting and could serve as an example â if properly enforced â for possible couplings between countries and regions.
In the same manner that such a plausible principle figures in the document, along with the idea of fostering âinvestments of a social and environmental natureâ (and there were references to sustainable development), there is a clause about the âlegal guarantees for economic operators.â
According to representatives of PARLACEN (Central-American Parliament) and PARLAT (Latin-American Parliament), who met in parallel gatherings, the topic has to do with the recent and sovereign decisions of Argentina and Bolivia to nationalize foreign assets.
When foreign companies do not exactly meet their obligations, or when nations make a sovereign decision to better employ those investments to favor their own progress, we are looking at a case of âforce majeure.â It is natural that the security of investors be a source of concern, better yet if that concern is accompanied by respect for the possible damages or benefits experienced by the other party. It is something that needs to be dealt with in a two-way manner, never in one way.
Among the intricacies of the topic, look at the case of Argentina, who was hounded by companies that bought sovereign bonds at rock-bottom prices and then demanded that they be paid according to the total value they once had. They are vulture funds, almost all of them North American. Weâll say no more, for now.
In the course of the CELAC-EU deliberations, the president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, guaranteed that the Old Continentâs integrationist pact has taken steps to overcome the euro crisis. Let us hope, for their sake and the worldâs sake, that it is not just a simple phrase.
The former French Minister of the Economy and current head manager of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), referring to the United States, Europe and Japan, said that if there is any growth in 2013 it will be slow and minor. In Davos, where prominent figures of business and politics held their annual meeting, nobody dared to refer to good economic weather.
Pessimism does not lack for reasons, something that was stated by another group of European intellectuals (neither the first nor the last to do so) who insisted that âEurope is not in crisis; itâs dying.â That document was signed by Bernard-Henri LÃ©vy and Umberto Eco, among others, who say that if the continent does not advance toward a political integration âit will plunge into chaos.â
To make clear what theyâre referring to, they mention Greece, which is being treated with âthe indifference and cynicism of her sister nations.â They oppose not only mental and financial selfishness but also the hyper-austerity that has been imposed.
So, returning to the guarantees demanded for the economic actors who invest in Latin America and/or the Caribbean, the explanation is that everyone here is agreeable to giving guarantees â and receiving them.
The result of this first encounter between former colonists and the people they once colonized leaves several positive perspectives still to materialize. The fact that 33 nations expressed themselves with a single voice and a single balance shows how much the region has grown, despite its many inner differences.
Those nations set their conditions and accepted those from partners and welcome interlocutors. This establishes very interesting precedents that will be tested in practice.
For Cuba in particular, the challenge is great, because the legal body that will protect and enforce the rules for both sides is something that will be conceived during its presidency of CELAC. Ecuador will have the same challenge when it takes over the presidency in 2015, as was agreed. Therefore, almost everything remains to be seen and done. The start is promising.
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