For twenty years, the European Union has been working on an agreement with the group of Latin American countries Mercosur, which should facilitate trade cooperation between the member states of both organizations. There has been talk of progress in recent months. A number of European leaders are not opposed to closer cooperation, but this is certainly not the case with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Of the representatives of the European twenty-seven countries, it is Macron who has been the most dismissive of a possible agreement in the long term, Politico points out. Indeed, if the EU were to fully open the door to goods from Latin America, French farmers, who are already strongly protesting the current conditions, would be even more threatened by meat imports from Argentina and Brazil.
Unable to incite further unrest in light of the upcoming European Parliament elections, Macron is looking for ways to stop the deal.
Macron’s strict attitude is also proven by the alleged private message he sent to the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in which he tries to stop the agreement. Politico writes about her with reference to its sources.
Macron officially expressed his skepticism about the agreement on Tuesday during a visit to Sweden. “We need clarification on Mercosur. We ask that the agreement in its current wording not be signed,” he said.
- customs union uniting South American states, originally established in 1991
- the composite word Mercosur was formed from the Spanish and Portuguese terms for “Common Market of the South”
- member states must be democracies, which is why Venezuela, led by authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro, has had its membership suspended since 2016
- Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay are currently members, Bolivia is to become a full member, other Latin American countries are associate members of the organization
The French president should also officially open the topic with von der Leyen this week, when they will meet at the European summit. The main topic of the meeting of European leaders will be further financial support to Ukraine in the amount of 50 billion euros.
But Macron is not alone in his predicament. Von der Leyen herself, who is considering running for another term at the head of the European Commission, is aware that she cannot antagonize Macron. This is because he is one of the most important European players and von der Leyen will need his support, Politico points out.
“Ursula von der Leyen knows that she needs the support of President Macron in order to run for the next mandate (President of the European Commission),” a French MEP from the Macronist camp told the server on condition of anonymity. This was also confirmed by a diplomat from one of the countries of Latin America, who also did not want to be named.
Despite Macron’s pressure and intra-EU tensions, representatives of Mercosur and other European leaders refuse to postpone negotiations on the agreement. “There will be no stopping. This is certainly not a case where we will suddenly tear up the papers, go home and lie down on the deckchair,” said Michael Hager, head of the cabinet of European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, in response to Macron’s call.
Commission spokesman Olof Gill confirmed Macron’s interaction with von der Leyen, but did not say whether the talks would really be postponed. Given that the French government is not the only one currently facing farmers’ protests, it is possible that some states will welcome Macron’s appeal to address the issue, according to Politico.