- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2008

EU at OAS

A top European leader is trying to persuade Latin American governments to move beyond the “darker side” of their relations with the European Union and embrace a “brighter one” that will concentrate on fighting poverty and threats to the global climate.

“The two topics are closely linked and unavoidably connected, and, therefore, we believe it is crucial to make real progress on poverty reduction and the consequences of climate change,” Dimitrij Rupel, president of the EU’s General Affairs and External Relations Council, told the Organization of American States on a Washington visit this week.

Mr. Rupel, also foreign minister of Slovenia, said his country and Peru have accepted the “demanding and responsible task” of co-chairing the next meeting of the EU-Latin American and Caribbean Summit, scheduled next month in the Peruvian capital Lima.

Past summits were marred by disagreements between some European nations and radical leaders in South America. At the last summit in 2006 in Austria, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused Europe of trying to exploit Latin America, while Tony Blair, then the British prime minister, warned Mr. Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales against taking over foreign energy investments in their countries.

In his speech to the OAS, Mr. Rupel called for Europeans and Latin Americans to recognize the progress they have made since beginning their periodical summits in 1999. He noted that the EU is the leading foreign investor in the region with more than $71 billion committed to corporate enterprises there.

“In the relations between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean, I believe it is important to begin by making a simple reflection of where we stand and how much we have progressed because at times we tend to view the relations … from the darker side rather than from the brighter one,” he said.

Mr. Rupel, ambassador to the United States from 1997 to 2000, added that the EU and Latin America share a responsibility for protecting the environment.

“As the cradle of the industrial revolution, the EU has a historic role to play in leading efforts to address the climate-change challenge,” he said. “The Amazon rain forest is a vital carbon regulator and has huge significance for global climate.”

He said the aim of the May summit is to “strengthen the strategic partnership between the two regions, based on mutual respect, common values and economic, political, cultural, historical and human ties.”

On his Washington visit, Mr. Rupel also met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss political conditions in Europe’s western Balkans and with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to plan for the EU-U.S. summit in Slovenia in June.

Cappuccino politics

Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta knows how to attract a crowd of Washington insiders to watch early morning election returns from Rome. He served cappuccino.

As initial results were broadcast at the Italian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue Northwest at 8 a.m. Monday, many pundits sipping the rich Italian espresso drink predicted that it was too early to predict anything.

Mr. Castellaneta, however, was confident about the results, regardless of which political coalition won the parliamentary elections.

“There won’t be any change here,” he said of U.S.-Italian relations. “Italy and the United States will always be close allies.”

Kurt Volker, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs, agreed, saying, “We have a splendid relationship with Italy, which will continue.”

Later in the day, results confirmed that Italy’s richest man, the colorful conservative Silvio Berlusconi who is worth about $12 billion, won a third term as prime minister.

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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