EU presidency slams opposition to Mercosur talks

13th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Spanish EU presidency Thursday criticised 10 EU nations, led by France, over their opposition to the resumption of free trade talks with the Latin American bloc Mercosur.

The 10 on Tuesday protested the planned talks, set to get underway in Madrid next week, as "a highly negative signal" for Europe's struggling farm sector.

But Spain's Secretary of State for Latin America Juan Pablo de Laiglesia Thursday said the interests of EU member states would be preserved during the negotiations with Mercosur, which groups Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

"To prejudge the outcome of these negotiations -- that they will run counter to the interests of any (EU) member state -- seems unreasonable to us," said Laiglesia, whose country holds the six-month rotating EU presidency.

He acknowledged that several EU members "have some difficulty facing the prospect of negotiations with Mercosur (but) ... there are others who think that we should take this opportunity to strengthen our relations in all fields with such an important partner as Mercosur."

The European Commission announced in early May it would reopen negotiations with Mercosur, which were suspended in 2004.

Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg and Poland on Tuesday took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement to the entire EU council slamming the decision.

Romania and Cyprus associated themselves with the statement, a European diplomat said.

"We regret that it has been taken without prior political debate with the (EU) Council and without a debate on the possible economic impact of an agreement with Mercosur on the EU economy," the statement said.

The joint statement is to be submitted to European farm ministers on Monday, the same day as talks with Mercosur are formally reopened.

© 2010 AFP

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