At inauguration of EU-LAC civil society meeting
Peruvian Foreign Minister affirms that citizens should contribute to the integration agenda

Lima, April 17, 2008.- In preparation for the forthcoming EU-LAC Summit to be held this coming May 16 and with the firm intention of submitting its proposals and contributions to that meeting, approximately 200 representatives of organized civil society of European Union and Latin American countries gathered at the CAN General Secretariat headquarters in Lima, opened their Fifth Meeting, which will center on the core issues of poverty, social cohesion and the environmental.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Peruvian Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaúnde stressed the importance attained by civil society. “Today, organized civil society is an actor on the world stage, unlike its position in the past.  Its presence enriches the government sector by bringing in a breath of fresh air and contributing a new vision and perspective, enabling us to go beyond the political terrain in the search for a consensus,” he stated.

He stressed that today, more than ever, the idea that democracy means not only government of the majority, but also respect for minorities, has begun to take root in our exercises in governance. At the same time, democracy also has to do with how common citizens can be made a part of the integration effort. He pointed out that although Europe has already been able to achieve this, Latin America has not.  That is why the region faces the challenge of finding out “how to take our integration efforts to the citizens and ensure that their concerns help shape our agenda.”

The CAN Secretary General, Freddy Ehlers, for his part, stated that civil society should contribute to an in-depth rethinking of our development model in the light of major challenges raised by the EU-LAC Summit, such as poverty and climate change.

In referring to the extent of the poverty which affects 200 million people in Latin America and the threat posed by climate change, he underscored the need to change the development model in line with the thinking of French philosopher Edgar Morin, who points out that “the unity of the planet” will be impossible unless “changes are made in mental, social, economic and national structures.”

He noted that French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in citing Morin, recognized the need to put a “civilization policy” into effect.”

In speaking on behalf of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union, French Ambassador to Peru, Pierre Charasse, expressed his pleasure at taking part in this first official act of the EU-LAC Summit to be held in May and stated that it is particularly important for our countries’ socioeconomic actors, in parallel with the work of the governments, to discuss among themselves the issues to be addressed by the Foreign Ministers and Presidents.

Filip Hamro-Drotz, President of the Specialized External Relations Area of the European Economic and Social Committee, invited the participants to engage in an open discussion of the issues to be addressed at the Summit, so that they can prepare proposals and solutions for submission to that meeting.

Ambassador Antonio Cardoso Mota, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Peru, delivered the message sent to the participants by the European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighborhood Policy, Ambassador Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and during his statement underscored the importance of the meeting, for “here a bridge is being built between the Summit and Organized Civil Society,” not only because the same issues are being discussed, but because of the examination being made of the role of socioeconomic organizations in Latin American and Caribbean regional integration processes and of their contribution to relations with the EU.