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Germany

Berlin Wants Closer Ties to Latin America

Germany's foreign minister called for a "partnership on eye level" with Latin America, ahead of Chancellor Merkel's visit to the continent whose economic growth continues to raise its political significance.

View of Rio de Janeiro

Lofty proclamations in the past have failed to bring Europe and Latin America much closer

Germany should establish a "partnership on eye level" with Latin America, said Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier ahead of the chancellor's visit to Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru from May 13-20.

Merkel and Lula

Merkel hosted Brazilian President Lula's visit to Germany last year

The highpoint of Angela Merkel's trip is to be her participation in the fifth European Union-Latin American and Caribbean Summit (EU-LAC), to be held May 16-17 in Lima, Peru.

The visit marks the rising importance of the region, government sources told German news agency DPA. The growing economies of the region, with powerhouses like Brazil and Mexico, had added to its political significance.

"As partners for years we have to hurry to remain important partners," Merkel said last week.

Europe is the greatest investor in Latin America, its second most important trading partner and the main donor of development aid.

More than 60 countries from Europe, South and Central America and the Caribbean will attend the Lima summit, which has as its main themes poverty, inequality, sustainable development and the environment.


Lip service?

But Merkel won't be rubbing shoulders with her counterparts from other big European economies. Little has come of the "strategic partnership" proclaimed at the first EU-LAC summit in Vienna in 1999.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, embraces Bolivia's new President Evo Morales as he waves from the balcony of the presidential palace in La Paz, Sunday, Jan 22, 2006.

Berlin doesn't know what to make of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (left) and Bolivia's Evo Morales

The chancellor will, however, use the time to visit Brazil on Wednesday, for talks with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was a guest at the Group of Eight (G8) summit hosted by Merkel in Heiligendamm last year.

The following day, she will move on to Peru, which has not received a visit from a serving German chancellor for 30 years, to attend EU-LAC. After the summit, Merkel will travel to Colombia. The last station on the trip is Mexico.

German government spokesmen pointed to economic growth for the region as a whole last year of some 5.6 percent, with summit hosts Peru growing at 9 percent.

German government sources indicated that the rise of left-wing nationalism in some countries in the region was cause for concern in Berlin, although they did not rule out the possibility that Merkel would meet some of the leaders of the countries in question during the summit, according to DPA.



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