Ehlers considers that association agreement between the CAN and EU will be a milestone

EFE News Agency
Bogotá, September 18, 2007

The association agreement the European Union (EU) and the Andean Community (CAN) started negotiating in Bogotá this week will be a milestone in world history because it covers political dialogue, cooperation and trade between two blocs and 31 countries, Andean Secretary General Freddy Ehlers told EFE today. 

According to Ehlers, it is a “complex and difficult agreement that we expect will benefit the Andean countries and their masses, because that is its purpose.” 

He pointed out that the negotiations, the first round of which will extend through next Friday, involve a major effort.

"The only formula we have to guarantee (its success) is the will of the countries to be here today” for “the most advanced (process) the world has ever seen,” because, he stated, no agreement of this size has ever been undertaken successfully.  

Although the three pillars to be dealt with in the negotiations are equally important, Ehlers stressed the political dialogue, which can cover matters as diverse as democracy, human rights, migration, the war on corruption and drugs, security and “new issues like biodiversity and sustainable development.” 

The complexity, according to the Secretary General of the CAN (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru), also lies in the fact that negotiations between the two blocs “constitute a veritable universe,” due to the number of positions on the topics to be addressed. 

On the one hand, there is the EU, with a common stand and a great deal of negotiating experience, and on the other, the CAN, which must work hard to make the commitment “to build unity out of diversity” announced at the Presidential summit held last June in Tarija (Bolivia), a reality. 

"The Andean countries, which have different visions of different matters, now have the possibility of reaching agreements on many of them, Ehlers, an Ecuadorian national announced, adding that he hopes that the Andean countries will recognize the existence of “disagreements” on the matters on which they are unable to reach a common position. 

He underscored the strength of the CAN, despite the difficulties it has had to endure over its 38-year life, and noted that the almost 600 decisions that are binding on the group’s Member Countries were all adopted by consensus. 

"The desire to make any one country feel as if the others wanted to impose something on it has never existed,” he stressed.

He declared that this is “a good time” for the CAN and that the recognition and the presence of the EU, the world’s largest economic bloc, are indicative “that this is a historic moment for our nations.” 

He went on to refer to the issue of migration, “on which there is hope of reaching agreements” and stated that this is a “very important issue” in both the political terrain and that of cooperation because of the presence in Europe of large numbers of Andean citizens.   

He added that “50 years ago, it was the Europeans who were lining up to come here.” 

Insofar as sustainable development is concerned, Ehlers stated that no one in the world can boost development that is not sustainable and asserted that the CAN has major areas of strength in which work should be done, to wit, climate change, water and biodiversity. 

"We South Americans are responsible for barely 5 percent of the world’s economy and the 100 million Andean citizens total barely 1 percent of its population, but we do have the largest store of freshwater and biodiversity in the world, which are vital for mankind’s survival,” he pointed out. 

Ehlers affirmed that for that reason, because “we possess enormous wealth, (it) must be defended, recognized, considered and exploited.”  

After stating that the world situation “is truly dangerous” and that we must “be aware of the seriousness of the problem,” he emphasized that it is European society that is “the most conscious of the seriousness of the environmental problem.”

He pointed out that this is the reason why the EU has “taken many measures unilaterally that are fundamental” and costly, but that would be far more costly if action were not taken in time.  EFE