EU plans diplomatic offensive in Latin America to counter Russian, Chinese influence

Document leaked to Spanish daily El Pais outlines EU’s anxiety about waning credibility in region.

EU plans diplomatic offensive in Latin America to counter Russian, Chinese influence

Brussels sees its influence slipping away in Latin America and is preparing to ramp up diplomacy and economic relations in 2023, according to EU documents revealed by Spanish daily El Pais on Thursday.

The leaked text, composed by the European Union External Action Service (EEAS), simultaneously warns that the 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are increasingly under the hold of Beijing's economic interests and Moscow’s political sway.

While the EU has focused more on neighboring countries like Libya, Syria and Ukraine over the past decade, China increased its investments in Latin America 26-fold between 2000 and 2020, according to the document. Likewise, 21 countries in the region have signed onto China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Meanwhile, the objections of some EU states have stalled the massive EU-Mercosur free trade agreement, just like pending updates to trade agreements with Mexico and Chile.

This, in part, has allowed China to overtake the EU (and in some cases the US) in terms of trade in many Latin American countries.

Importantly, Latin America is also home to the majority of the world’s known lithium deposits, as well as massive deposits of petroleum and natural gas, the text points out.

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine highlighted a shift toward Moscow and away from the West in many states. Russia’s influence on popular opinion is also seen to be increasing.

Although Latin American countries were more aligned with the West in the UN votes condemning the Russian war, in the latest Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly in April, the European delegation was unable to pass a condemnation of Moscow, even using the same language as the UN declaration.

Meanwhile, the report also noted a trend of new “antiestablishment” leaders who may be more open to moving away from traditional alliances, such as the new leaders in Peru, Chile, Honduras, Costa Rica and Colombia.

The election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the upcoming Brazil elections would only solidify this “remarkable transition” from the right to the left, according to the document.

At the same time, the EU sees a risk of political instability on the continent due to the economic consequences of both COVID-19 and soaring commodity prices attributed to the war in Ukraine.

That’s why Brussels, under the leadership of Josep Borrell, wants to take advantage of the current situation to boost diplomacy and deploy its funds dedicated to Latin America “strategically and for maximum impact.” According to the report, the EU is studying a package for 2023 that could mobilize up to €8 billion ($8.14 billion) of European investments in Latin America.

"The EU's credibility, power and leverage on the international stage is at stake,” warned the EEAS report.